Severe drought spreads to entire Thompson-Okanagan – Kelowna News

A wildfire burning across from Peachland at Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park is under control.

According to B.C. Wildfire Services, the fire is now 0.1 hectares in size after 3 fire crew members responded to the blaze along with 2 helicopters. The cause of the fire is still unknown, but it’s believed to have been started by lightning. The time the fire broke out is also undetermined at this time.

Those in the area who have lived here long enough remember the 2003 fires, when Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park was scorched by a lightning strike, burning a total of 25,912 hectares.


If you have a big pile of empties after the recent heat wave, Saturday is the time to return them and help a great cause.

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan will be hosting a bottle drive on Saturday at its ReStore locations between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. The stores are located on Enterprise Way in Kelowna and on Ross Road in West Kelowna.

The organization, which like all others had to change or postpone its fundraisers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, held a successful bottle drive in the spring and are looking to duplicate it this weekend.

“Your bottles build houses,” Habitat for Humanity Okanagan CEO Andrea Manifold said in a press release.

Habitat for Humanity’s goal is to provide affordable home ownership to those who need it most, and its fundraising efforts primarily go towards supplies needed for construction.

The bottles do not have to be sorted, and Habitat volunteers will be there to take them straight from your vehicle.

The drought situation has degraded rapidly in B.C. over the past month.

The federal agriculture ministry says declarations of D2 severe drought have spread significantly to the entire Thompson-Okanagan. A pocket of D3 extreme drought has been noted in the Kootenays near Creston. The federal system tops out at D4.

The so-called “heat dome” that shattered temperature records last week hit the BC Interior the hardest, according to the monthly federal drought report.

The B.C. Interior has received less than 40 per cent of normal precipitation in the last 90 days — roughly translating to 55 to 150 mm less than normal precipitation.

“Below-normal precipitation and recent intense heat lead to increased evapotranspiration and poor moisture conditions resulting in increased drought extent and severity,” Agriculture Canada said.

Meanwhile, the provincial government issued a statement Friday urging residents in drought-stricken areas to conserve water.

In particular, the Salmon River watershed that drains into Shuswap Lake is currently at Drought Level 4 on the provincial government’s five level scale.

“In this area, significant, adverse impacts on fish are very likely, and maximum water conservation for all water users and licensees is being urged,” the province said.

Most of the rest of the Okanagan is sitting at a Drought Level 3 on the provincial scale.

Irrigators, water licensees and water users in watersheds experiencing water scarcity are being told to prepare for additional targeted water restrictions.

Cities throughout the Thompson-Okanagan started to announce stage one water restrictions this week.

Okanagan Lake, meanwhile, is roughly 70 cm below where it was this time last year.


Those almost-iconic green and yellow corn stands will not be operating in Kelowna this year due to struggles finding staff and local competition.

Sparkes Corn Barn, which sells Fraser Valley corn at roadside stands, announced on Facebook Friday that they will not operate in Kelowna this season.

The family-run business says they could not find employees and managers to run the drive-thru corn stands.

“Also, we ran into a lot of pushback from a local farmer. This farmer called the newspaper and the city complaining that our corn barns were stored on farmland, he did everything that he could to remove us from Kelowna. Apparently, this farmer did not appreciate the competition,” said Sparkes Corn Barn on Facebook.

The company says they are currently swamped selling its corn at locations in Vernon and in the Fraser Valley.

“We also ship our corn to large grocery outlets in the three western provinces. Perhaps in the future if things worked out we could reopen our Kelowna barns. As of right now, we don’t see that happening in the near future,” Sparkes said, thanking their customers for support.

A Kelowna man is facing several charges after being arrested for allegedly fleeing from a roadside police stop and crashing into multiple vehicles last month.

Police were called on June 11 for multiple complaints of a suspicious vehicle in the 1600-block of Leaside Avenue in Kelowna. When officers arrived, they found a man in a white sedan attempting to jump-start another vehicle. Officers spoke with the driver, who provided a fake driver’s license and then started his vehicle, backed into a police vehicle and fled, colliding with a vehicle parked nearby, as well as other police vehicles that arrived in the area to assist.

“Luckily, no officers were injured in the incident,” said Kelowna RCMP spokesperson Const. Solana Paré. “Investigators quickly identified the man as an individual known to police, and recommended criminal charges to the BC Public Prosecution Service who issued a warrant for his arrest.”

Orin David Lucas, 20, was charged with flight from police, dangerous driving, assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and other property-related offences.

RCMP located Lucas on July 7 just before 2:00 p.m. in the 1900-block of Spall Avenue where he was arrested without incident.

“Following his arrest, a search of the man located quantities of suspected fentanyl, suspected fraudulent identification and multiple weapons including a prohibited weapon,” states Sgt. Desmond Kiehlbauch of the Kelowna RCMP Street Enforcement Unit. “The man was also allegedly in breach of various orders previously imposed on him by the courts.”

Lucas has a history of stealing and crashing vehicles in the Central Okanagan. The most serious of his past incidents came in December 2018, when he crashed a stolen truck into an SUV in Rutland, seriously injuring the young man behind the wheel of the SUV. Lucas was just 18 years old at the time.

He pleaded guilty to nine offences in May 2019 and was handed an additional three months of jail, with six months credit. He was also given an additional 18 months of probation.

Lucas’ 2019 crime spree was brought to an end in March 2019 when a Lake Country man took matters into his own hands, after he caught Lucas sneaking around his home at night.

– with files from Nich Johansen

The Kelowna Art Gallery is featuring an art exhibit from a historically dark period of time.

The Bombhead exhibit, which was curated by author and curator John O’Brien, depicts the impacts and experiences of the nuclear war age through artists and their work. The exhibit originated at the Vancouver Art Gallery, but it is now travelling B.C. It will be in Kelowna until July 18.

Gallery education coordinator Victoria Verge says despite the exhibit being dark in nature, it can be used as a teaching moment.

“Bombhead is the perfect example of a historical exhibition, and one that’s based in a moment in time rather than just an artist’s memories or maybe something that’s a little more personal. A historical exhibition gives people the chance to interact with a moment in time, to understand a little more about it and to see it through a different lens,” said Verge.

Verge says the exhibit has been popular so far. Certain pictures, paintings and artifacts have captured the attention of the viewers and the feedback has been positive.

“I think the main thing is the fact that we have our doors open during our own dark time, and people are able to come and find some serenity in being able to take in some art in their community, as well as maybe learn something they may have not known before,” said Verge.

There appears to be more milfoil in some Okanagan lakes than usual, likely due to lower water levels and warmer water.

In the South Okanagan, the Okanagan Basin Water Board is hearing reports of of milfoil already breaking the surface of Vaseaux Lake, while harvesters have been removing up to twice the amount of milfoil from Osoyoos Lake than usual.

Milfoil is an invasive species that has plagued the Okanagan since the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The Okanagan Basin Water Board rototills local lakes through the winter, which actually removes the plants out by their roots, while harvesting is conducted in the summer months to cut the tops of the weeds off and remove the plant mass from the water.

“It doesn’t stop the weeds from growing and they can grow up to five centimetres a day,” said James Littley, operations and grants manager with the OKWB. “But it at least cleans up the top of the water and allows for some water mixing, better water quality and of course, better swimming conditions.”

Last year, Wood Lake had the worst summer for milfoil in the past 30 years, but harvesters haven’t been out to Wood Lake this year yet to see how 2021 will compare.

“I’m kind of curious about whether the algae bloom that was there for so many weeks might have actually prevented a little bit of light penetration that might stop some of the growth, because if the water is cloudy than the milfoil won’t grow as well,” Littley said.

On Okanagan Lake, the milfoil hasn’t been found to be as bad as first anticipated up near Vernon, but Littley says the low lake level has brought its own challenges.

“Our machine needs to be able to get near the beach to offload the weeds, and then the truck needs to be able to get near the shore to pick up the weeds,” he said. “And because the lake level is so low, we’re having difficulty in a few areas doing that.”

As for the Kelowna area, summertime harvesting is rarely done, due to the extensive rototilling conducted near local beaches in the winter months.

Littley says the only way to eradicate milfoil in small sections is to use chemical herbicides. And while the practice is done in some areas of the United States, it’s not done in Canada.

Rob Gibson

Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist says there were 26,000 lightning strikes in British Columbia during Thursday’s thunderstorm.

“Some of those strikes were in dry areas and they may smoulder and come to life a week or two later.”

Lundquist says most of the lightning strikes were in the southern part of the province, including areas around Kelowna, Penticton and Kamloops.

“Every day now lightning is an issue,” Lundquist says, “two-thirds of the Interior is going to have lightning again on Friday, it just won’t be the Central Interior.”

Lundquist says there is a chance of lightning north of Kamloops and wind gusts could also be an issue for firefighters in the province.

“We try to pin down the days that are going to be worse for thunderstorms or wind events. We can’t prevent lightning from causing fires, or wind from flaring them up, but they want to know and we want to be on the same page as BC Wildfire Services.”

Lundquist has been in the Okanagan since 1989 and he’s never seen this combination of dry and hot conditions.

“It feels like 2003 except that we had the extreme heat at the end of June (this year). I’ve never seen that in my career before. It’s off the charts. We are in a very dire situation,” Lundquist says.

Of course, the Okanagan Mountain Park fire was sparked by lightning on August 16, 2003, at approximately 4 a.m. near Rattlesnake Island.

UPDATE 12:17 p.m.

RCMP tell castanet that a skateboarder was struck just before 10 a.m. Friday at the intersection of Richter St. and Lawrence Ave.

“Kelowna RCMP received a report of a collision between a silver sedan and a skateboarder at Richter Street and Lawrence Avenue. Frontline officers attended and learnt from witnesses that the silver sedan failed to stop at the red light and collided with the skateboarder,” says RCMP spokesperson Cst. Solana Pare.

A 25-year-old man was struck but his injuries are believed to be minor. Both the male driver and the skateboarder were assessed at the scene by Emergency Health Services and left on their own accord.

The vehicle was towed from the scene.

“Distracted driving appears to be a factor in the collision,” Cst. Pare says.

ORIGINAL 10:51 a.m.

Emergency crews were on the scene of a collision at Richter St. and Lawrence Ave. Friday morning.

The incident occurred just after 10 a.m.

A grey sedan sustained extensive damage to the passenger side of the wind shield. Initial reports indicate that a pedestrian may have been struck.

Richter St. was closed between Lawrence and Bernard but has now re-opened.

Castanet has reached out to RCMP for more information.

UPDATE: 12:02 p.m.

The Derickson Lake fire burning north of Big White is being held, not under control.

The BC Wildfire Service said it inadvertently identified the blaze in the Graystokes area as under control on Friday morning.

A fire information officer called Castanet just before noon to clarify the fire is actually considered held.

ORIGINAL STORY: 10:27 a.m.

A wildfire burning north of Big White in the Graystokes area is now under control.

The status of the Derickson Lake fire changed from out of control to under control earlier in the morning Friday.

Kamloops Fire Centre fire information officer Noel Kelula told Castanet News crews on the ground had been working the past several days on securing solid guards and wet lines around the perimeter of the fire.

Those guards are now in place.

The size of the fire has remained steady at 1,140 hectares since Saturday. The fire, believed to have been caused by lightning, was first spotted 10 days ago.

The Trap Creek fire, northeast of Big White remains out of control. It’s mapped at 15.2 hectares in size.

The BC Wildfire Service is only monitoring that fire, and will deploy resources as needed.

Kekula says BCWS prioritizes life, property and infrastructure, and when those are not threatened, will take a less aggressive approach to fighting a fire.

BCWS is also monitoring lightning strikes from Thursday’s thunderstorm activity.

Kekula says it can be later in the day when temperatures heat up before fire activity from lightning strikes become visible.

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