VICTORIA – Marya Brown twirls a lighted fibre cable above her head at least twice a week.
She says it reminds her of her teenage years when she held up lighters in darkened arenas during encores at rock concerts.
Brown, 61, is convinced the psychedelic experience she’s offered at Victoria’s Aberdeen Hospital in a semi-dark room filled with what appears to be colourful bubble-making machines and projector-images of flowers and stars helps her recover mentally and physically from a stroke that put her in a wheelchair.
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She describes the residential care facility’s former caring room as cluttered grandmother’s closet with faded wallpaper and out-of-date upholstery.
But its recent transformation into a sensory playground for the elderly and others with dementia or brain injuries makes it a special place, she says.
“I love the caring room,” she says. “I find it inspiring. I find it beautiful and I find it peaceful.”
She’s in the room at least twice a week for music appreciation sessions.
“It takes me back to the late 1960s and early 70s when we used to sit in each others basements and play music on our stereos. The room, I feel stimulates my brain is a very special way. I think it happens very subliminally, almost.”
She holds up the lighted cable and says: “It’s our Bic lighter from when we were at concerts. Who needs drugs.”
Aberdeen’s Recreation Therapist Johanne Hemond says the caring room is the culmination of a year-long project to offer soothing touch, feel and see therapy to residents and patients.
The room is modelled on the Dutch-developed Snoezelen rooms, which are used worldwide to help people of all ages, including children with autism, to engage with experiences that give them pleasure and a sense of peace. There are more than 1,200 such rooms worldwide.
People interact freely with the room’s different components to create positive environments. They control the level of sensory stimuli and adapt their responses.
Hemond dims the lights, turns on the projector and walks over to an elongated cylindrical tube that appears to be filled with flowing bubbles.
“Our bubble tube, it’s a bigger version of a lava lamp,” Hemond says. “It’s trippy. People follow the rhythm of the bubbles and feel the vibration.”
She says she’s seen people in wheelchairs hold onto the tube and let the bubbles flow through them. She has seen others hold the tube and fall asleep.
The water wall, which sounds like a running stream and changes colours, is visually stimulating and enhances relaxation, Hemond says.
A projector sets the mood by beaming images of an alpine meadow on the wall while shimmering stars move along the ceiling.
Peoples senses diminish as they age, especially for those living with Alzheimer’s, preventing them from enjoying their surroundings which can lead to stress, anxiety, depression and social problems. The room serves to bring people back in touch with their senses, she says.
“This is a great place to come down and let them have their own time,”says Hemond. “It’s a holistic approach to their care. It’s part of their therapy, but without using medication.”
The caring room is also used for hospice purposes and weekly dog-therapy sessions are also conducted with residents and patients.
Watch above: You’ve probably heard their radio ads for years, but now an independent electronics business in DDO, known for its personalized customer service, is about to call it quits. But as Billy Shields reports, it’s not all bad news.
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DOLLARD-DES-ORMEAUX – Since 1991, La Boutique Electronique was one of the anchors of Boulevard des Sources in this West Island municipality. Specializing in home electronics and audio-visual equipment, many West Islanders listed the store as the place they’d go to buy their first television, or first hi-fi stereo.
Sadly, times have changed. As more shoppers purchase electronics online and at big box stores, the store is shutting its doors for good.
“It’s a 50-50 deal right now,” said Eric Boucher, a salesman at the store. “It’s hard to really see where the focus is heading towards. The retail world is a harder world, especially with the big box stores.”
Some West Island shoppers who talked to Global News said they were somewhat nostalgic about the store’s departure.
“Yeah a little bit, I think you want to make sure especially with equipment like a TV that the quality is good and the image is good,” said Pierre Cote.
La Boutique Electronique started out as the second act for hi-fi retailers Scott Phelan and Christopher Porteous. They had established a car stereo business, but sold it as soon as they found that advances in out-of-the-box offerings on cars made their business model obsolete. They launched the Boutique in an old tire store in DDO in 1991.
“Our first year? Nightmare!” Porteous said.
“We got broken into seven times, we were losing $20,000 a month. It was like throwing a giant party now one shows up to.”
The business turned around during the second Christmas the business was open, as word got around the West Island. The business was viable after that.
Porteous denied that big box stores threatened the Boutique’s bottom line, but he did have to battle a stigma that the store was overpriced.
The good news? Some of the store’s former sales staff are migrating to a new business called Resonance AV, which installs customized home theatres for customers.
“When we walk into a client’s house, we look in a room and we look at the issues a client has within that room,” said Justin Cloughesy, the head of the new business.
Cloughesy was a salesman at La Boutique for eight years, and will hire away three people from the store, including Porteous, who will sell equipment on a contract basis.
Cloughesy said trying to go price for price against big box stores “is just a losing battle nowadays.”
The store will likely shut its doors for good in mid-August. Perhaps surprisingly, Porteous said he won’t miss it.
“I’m excited about moving forward, I always have been,” he said. “I’m really excited about moving forward.”
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – Forensic teams fanned out across the Netherlands on Saturday to collect material including DNA samples that will help positively identify the remains of victims killed in the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine.
Police said in a tweet that 40 pairs of detectives from the National Forensic Investigations Team would be visiting victims’ relatives over the coming days.
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Their aims is to build a database of material including DNA and photographs of distinguishing features like scars and tattoos that can be used to identify bodies and body parts recovered from the crash site in eastern Ukraine. Malaysia Airlines said 192 of the 298 passengers and crew killed in Thursday’s aviation disaster were Dutch.
READ MORE: World leaders call Malaysian Airlines MH17 crash ‘an outrage’
The European Union police co-ordination body Europol said Saturday it would assist Interpol and other agencies in identifying victims in Ukraine.
“We will do our utmost to support the work that must be done following this horrific incident, where hundreds of families and friends to the innocent victims on board Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 are grieving and left with unanswered questions,” Europol Director Rob Wainwright said in a statement.
READ MORE: Ukraine says Russia helping to destroy MH17 crash evidence
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines said it is assessing security in Ukraine before taking a decision about possibly flying next of kin to the country where their family members lost their lives.
A spokesman for the airline said family members were being cared for in Amsterdam while a team from the carrier, including security officials, is in Ukraine assessing the situation.
The spokesman, who declined to be named in line with company policy, said the team was trying to travel “500 kilometres (310 miles) through difficult territory” to reach the area where wreckage of the Boeing 777 landed.
Dutch newspapers carried pages of photos and stories Saturday about the dead. Travellers flying out of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport laid flowers and signed a condolence book before boarding their flights, including Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 to Kuala Lumpur.
“I am not really afraid. It’s good that they kept the same flight number,” Mirelle Geervliet said as she prepared to board the aircraft. “It doesn’t change anything. If you change the number, people will start to be afraid.”
Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, on a visit to the Netherlands, was among those who signed the condolence book at the airport.
“This is a real tragedy — a tragedy for families, for nations and for the HIV AIDS community,” Annan said, referring to several AIDS researchers who were on the doomed flight. “We should all hope that a thorough international investigation will be conducted and we will know what happened and the culprits should be held to account.”
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans was in Kyiv on Saturday, pushing for a fully independent, international probe into the downing of the plane, a day after Prime Minister Mark Rutte steered clear of apportioning blame but vowed not to rest until the perpetrators are brought to justice if it is proven to be an attack.
©2014The Associated Press
ABOVE: (Jul. 19, 2014) The continued fighting is incredibly far away but still for many in our city, it hits close to home. Cindy Pom on what pro-Palestinian protesters are demanding and who will help answer their calls.
TORONTO – Hundreds of Canadians protested Israeli military action in Gaza Saturday with demonstrations held in some of Canada’s major cities.
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Pro-Palestinian protesters rally for Gaza
Hundreds protest violence in Gaza at Vancouver Art Gallery
The protests were on the second day of an Israeli ground offensive that saw the death toll in Gaza top 330 people.
In Toronto, demonstrators held signs with slogans like “Gaza needs more than our prayers,” chanting “free, free Palestine,” across the street from the Israeli Consulate.
Organizer Hind Awwad said the rally was drawing attention to what she calls “Israel’s ongoing aggression.”
She said the Harper government’s “unwavering support” of Israel amounts to complicity in “crimes in the Gaza Strip.”
“We’re here to raise our voices and say Israel must be pressured,” she said, adding that protesters are calling for sanctions.
VIDEO GALLERY: Pro-Gaza protests across Canada
Aidan Macdonald, who is also an organizer with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, said the goal was to “express solidarity” with Palestinians.
“As long as the assault continues, there are going to be people mobilizing in the streets,” he said.
Macdonald added the Canadian government’s response to the conflict has been “appalling,” with officials refusing to condemn the deaths of Palestinian civilians.
In Montreal, several hundred people marched through the streets in the city’s north end to denounce the attacks.
Jaoudat Abouazza, who emigrated from the West Bank in 1977 and still has family throughout the region, said it’s been harrowing watching the tragedy unfold.
“We want peace. We need peace,” said Abouazza, who came to the protest with his wife and three children.
“It’s very upsetting. It’s hard to accept what’s been happening there.”
Tempers briefly flared at the protest after a woman showed up waving a small Israeli flag.
Terri Allister, a Jewish Montrealer, told demonstrators and reporters that Israel “had the right to defend itself.”
One man angered by her presence tried to rip the flag away from her, causing her to lose her balance.
Another woman gave her a hug, and said all the protesters want is peace.
There was a similarly tense scene in Calgary on Friday evening, where a group of Israel supporters showed up at a pro-Palestinian rally and a fight broke out.
Dania Jamous, a 23-year-old Montrealer, said the conflict has been going on for far too long and must stop.
“Children being murdered is not acceptable,” she said.
“We need to go into the street and denounce it.”
Placard carrying protesters marched in Vancouver and urged Israel to stop its military operations in Gaza and were also critical of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“Our government has been pro-Zionist and we want to stand against that,” said Dania Kallas, a protest organizer.
The Israeli military has said it has severely diminished the arsenal of Hamas, the Islamic militant group ruling Gaza, but accuses militants of continuing to fire rockets.
Harper spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday to discuss the situation.
A spokesman for Harper said the two men discussed the need to “make every effort to minimize civilian casualties” and Harper reaffirmed his support for Israel’s right to defend itself.
©2014The Canadian Press
ABOVE: Final preparations are being made ahead of Monday’s operation to finally tow away the Costa Concordia. Mandy Clark reports.
The shipwrecked Costa Concordia liner has been successfully re-floated in preparation to be towed away for scrapping.
That comes 30 months after it struck a reef and capsized, killing 32 people.
READ MORE: Costa Concordia refloated for towing back to shore
Authorities expressed satisfaction that the operation to float the Concordia from an underwater platform had come off without a hitch.
This combination made on September 17, 2013 shows four photos of the Costa Concordia, after the cruise ship ran aground and keeled over off the Isola del Giglio taken on January 14, 2012 (TopL), beginning to emerge during the salvage operation on September 16, 2013 (TopR) and (BottomL) and after he was turned upright (BottomR) on September 17, 2013. Getty Images
This combination made on September 17, 2013 shows four photos of the Costa Concordia, after the cruise ship ran aground and keeled over off the Isola del Giglio taken on January 14, 2012 (TopL), beginning to emerge during the salvage operation on September 16, 2013 (TopR) and (BottomL) and after he was turned upright (BottomR) on September 17, 2013.
Engineers set the Concordia upright in a 19-hour operation in September. Crews fastened huge tanks — called sponsons — to its flanks like water wings to float it off underwater platforms for towing to Genoa on the mainland, where it will be dismantled.
Here’s a look at some remaining questions—and what happens next— after the shipwrecked Costa Concordia liner is successfully refloated in preparation to be towed away for scrapping.
Thirty-two people were killed in the tragic accident. The body of one man—Indian waiter Russel Rebello—remains unaccounted for.
Towing is set to begin July 21. It’s about 200 nautical miles (320 kilometres) to Genova and the trip is expected to take five days.
The entire operation to remove the Concordia from the reef and float it to Genova, where it will be scrapped, will cost a total of 1.5 billion euros, Costa Crociere SpA CEO Michael Tamm told reporters.
According to the cruise line Costa Crociere, the salvage operation contributed some 765 million euros to the Italian economy.
In this combo picture the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia is seen as it moves away from the underwater platform where it laid, during operations to put it afloat, on the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, Monday, July 14, 2014. The shipwrecked Costa Concordia has been successfully put afloat in preparation to tow it away for scrapping. AP Photo
In this combo picture the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia is seen as it moves away from the underwater platform where it laid, during operations to put it afloat, on the tiny Tuscan island of Giglio, Italy, Monday, July 14, 2014. The shipwrecked Costa Concordia has been successfully put afloat in preparation to tow it away for scrapping.
Capt. Francesco Schettino is currently on trial for alleged manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning the ship before all the passengers had been evacuated.
He says he is innocent and that he saved lives with the ship’s final manoeuvres.
and the Associated Press
GAZA, Palestinian Territory – Israel said it widened its ground offensive early Sunday, sending more troops into Gaza after demolishing more than a dozen Hamas tunnels and intensifying tank fire on border areas.
Loud explosions shook Gaza as Israeli flares lit up the night sky and Israeli fighter jets flew low across the densely populated territory.
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Since the start of Israel-Hamas fighting almost two weeks ago, 348 Palestinians were killed and 2,700 wounded in Israeli air and artillery strikes, according to Palestinian health officials. One-fourth of the deaths were reported since the start of the ground offensive late Thursday, the officials said.
Five Israelis — three soldiers and two civilians — have also been killed and dozens wounded as rockets continue to rain down on Israel.
As fighting raged, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon headed to Qatar on Sunday as part of renewed cease-fire efforts. Hamas last week rejected an Egyptian call to both sides to halt hostilities, saying it first wants guarantees that Israel and Egypt will significantly ease their border blockade of Gaza.
Israel’s military said early Sunday that it has widened its ground offensive by sending more troops into Gaza. Over the weekend, Israeli troops demolished more than a dozen tunnels that were used by Hamas to sneak into Israel and carry out attacks on soldiers and civilians, the army said.
Israeli soldiers uncovered 34 shafts leading into about a dozen underground tunnels, some as deep as 30 metres (yards), the military said. Israel views the tunnels as a strategic threat, and demolishing them is a high priority in their campaign.
Footage released by the Israeli military showed tunnels being demolished by army excavators and other equipment on the ground and by airstrikes from above.
Palestinian gunmen disguised in Israeli uniforms managed to infiltrate Israel from Gaza using another tunnel and on Saturday killed two Israeli soldiers and injured several others, the military said. At least one Palestinian was killed in the clash.
Hamas said 12 of its fighters participated in the attack and that the group took some of the soldiers’ weapons back to their hideouts.
In two other confrontations, Palestinian gunmen jumped out of tunnels and shot at soldiers who returned fire. Two of the gunmen were killed. Another militant died when the explosive vest he was wearing went off, the military said.
In one instance, the militants were found with tranquilizers and handcuffs, indicating they “intended to abduct Israelis,” according to the military.
Clashes persisted into late Saturday. Palestinians reported heavy Israeli tank fire on the border areas of Gaza. Doctors said a son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter of senior Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya were killed early Sunday when their house was hit by a tank shell in Gaza City. In the southern city of Rafah, three brothers were killed when an airstrike targeted the family house, said health official Ashraf al-Kidra.
In Israel, a Gaza rocket killed a man near the southern city of Dimona and wounded four people, police said, marking the second Israeli civilian casualty from the fighting.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri on Saturday repeated an appeal for the two sides to adopt the cease-fire, saying Egypt’s plan is the only one on the table, despite efforts from Hamas backers Turkey and Qatar to broker a deal.
“It meets the needs of both sides,” he said. “We will continue to propose it. We hope both sides accept it.”
Hamas has sought involvement of other countries, such as Qatar, in any cease-fire negotiations, saying Egypt cannot be the sole mediator. The Islamic militant group is deeply distrustful of Egypt’s rulers who last year deposed a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo.
With truce talks stalled, violence has escalated.
Casualties could mount quickly if the military moves deeper into urban areas.
Some 50,000 Palestinians are already staying in United Nations shelters, according to UNRWA, the U.N. refugee agency for Palestinians.
Electricity and water supplies in Gaza were increasingly being disrupted. The Gaza City municipality said a main water line was damaged in the fighting, leaving parts of the city without water. Gaza has suffered from rolling blackouts for years, but periods without electricity have now increased to up to 20 hours at a time.
Meanwhile, Egypt opened its border crossing with Gaza, admitting wounded to Egyptian hospitals and allowing aid and doctors back in.
Israel says it is going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties and blames them on Hamas, accusing it of firing from within residential neighbourhoods and using civilians as “human shields.”
Human rights activists say past confrontations have shown that when Israeli carries out attacks in densely populated Palestinian areas, civilian deaths are inevitable.
The military said it has hit more than 2,500 targets in Gaza, including 1,100 rocket launchers, during the 12 days of fighting. It said that some 70 militants were killed and another 13 brought to Israel for questioning.
Gaza militants have fired more than 1,760 rockets at Israeli cities since July 8, the military said.
Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, has survived Israeli offensives in the past, including a major three-week ground operation in January 2009 and another weeklong air offensive in 2012. It now controls an arsenal of thousands of rockets, including long-range projectiles, and has built a system of underground bunkers.
But Hamas is weaker than it was during the previous two offensives, with little international or even regional support from its main allies, Turkey and Qatar.
Deitch reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Karin Laub in Gaza City, Aron Heller in Tel Aviv, Yousur Alhlou in Jerusalem, Sarah El Deeb in Cairo and Lefteris Pitarakis in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.
WINNIPEG – Outrage has sparked around the world on the twelfth day of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.
Protests were held throughout the world including Winnipeg where hundreds of pro-Palestinians gathered at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
“Free free Palestine, free free Palestine. Stop the killing stop the hate, stop the killing stop the hate,” chanted the crowd.
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“In our country in Palestine, Jerusalem, and even Israel they can’t walk around and be safe, you wake up in the morning and you don’t know if you’re going to go home at night,” said pro-Palestinian rallier Husni Zeid.
On Thursday Israel launched a ground invasion in Gaza after an already high military offensive started earlier this month when three Israeli teens were kidnapped and killed.
Reports say over 300 Palestinians have died, a thousand more have been wounded, and just as many homes destroyed. Numbers that have many Canadian-Palestinians’s concerned for family and friends back home.
“I’m very worried about them, I haven’t heard from them, I haven’t been able to reach them and of course you worry about your family but you worry about everyone else there,” said Bassam Hozaima, Canada-Palestine Support Network.
It’s hard to see an end in sight after Egypt failed to negotiate a truce between the two sides.
“The only way it will end is if Israel will lift the siege on Gaza, to pull out of the west bank, and to start treating Palestinians as humans who have rights,” said Hozaima.
With both sides pointing the finger at each other though, tensions are skyrocketing.
“It’s shameful on both sides to see that we cannot live together,” said Zeid.
HALIFAX – A medical marijuana lounge quietly opened its doors in Halifax this weekend.
Farm Assists on Gottingen Street is a cannabis resource centre. Marijuana accessories and paraphernalia fill the front of the store while a vapour lounge takes up the back portion.
Customers check out the offerings inside Farm Assists. Julia Wong/Global News
Customers check out the offerings inside Farm Assists.
Julia Wong/Global News
And in the vapour lounge is where Adam Zinck sits, cutting up marijuana for a joint.
The 34-year-old man, who does not have a medical marijuana license yet, has been using marijuana medicinally to ease pain and anxiety stemming from a car accident 17 years ago.
“I injured my back really bad. As a result, I was put on a lot of painkillers and eventually wound up on methadone,” he said, adding marijuana weaned him off other medications.
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“A year and a half later, I shattered my ankle. I have a lot of pain there now. I’ve been using [marijuana] for that and it helps.”
Zinck calmly rolls up a joint in the vapour lounge at Farm Assists, saying he is glad the business opened.
“It’s a safe place where you can go and stay out of trouble,” he said.
“It brings me around people who are using it medically [rather than] recreationally.”
Farm Assists is owned by Chris Enns, who has a medical marijuana license that allows him to provide cannabis for two people.
But he plans to sell marijuana to those who have a license and a medical need for the substance.
“Individuals continue to struggle on a day-to-day basis to access [marijuana] from licensed producers. For the time being, we fill that void by stepping out on that limb and helping out those with a license beyond those two individuals,” he said.
But Enns also faces charges of his own. He is charged with possession of cannabis for the purpose of trafficking and possession of resin for the purpose of trafficking. Both charges stem from a raid in March 2013 at a previous marijuana hydrophonics store in Porters Lake.
Enns, however, said he believes the law is on his side when it comes to the legality of his store.
“Where exactly the law is law is pretty grey right now. I believe the need for patients to access that medication and the struggle they’re facing is what brings what we’re doing into constitutional territory,” he said.
The owner said people of all ages and suffering from various ailments, such as arthritis to epilepsy to cancer, have been walking through the doors.
Enns said he has not had any interactions with police since the store opened but notes there has been support from the community.
“We’ve certainly been seeing may people from the community trickling in and popping their head in the door to see what’s up. It’s really exciting.”
One of those curious customers was Maggi Keddy, who said she uses marijuana, though not medicinally, and wanted to support the business.
“We need more shops like this. Maybe if there was more shops then people [would] see how much of a benefit it is more than a problem,” she said.
NEW DELHI – Thousands of people angry over alleged police inaction after a six-year-old girl was raped at her school in southern India rallied Saturday to demand that authorities arrest those responsible for the attack.
More than 4,000 parents and relatives of children who attend the school in Bangalore, India’s technology hub, shouted slogans against the school’s administration and demanded that police arrest those involved in the July 2 incident, which was reported only this past week.
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They carried placards that read “Enough is enough” and “We want justice,” and walked more than 4 kilometres (2 miles) to one of the Bangalore’s main police stations.
Police said the girl was assaulted when she left her classroom to go to the restroom. They said she was recovering from the incident, but did not give further details.
The rape has raised questions about the safety of India’s schoolchildren and sparked nationwide outrage over rampant sexual violence against girls and women. The school has refused to take responsibility for the crime.
Angry lawmakers discussed the incident in the state assembly on Friday and demanded that the government of Karnataka state, of which Bangalore is the capital, punish the school principal and other administrators who allegedly tried to hush the matter.
The parents have said they will keep their children out of school until steps are in place to ensure their safety.
Police said eight members of the school’s staff had been detained for questioning. The protesters squatted outside a police station and refused to move until the city’s police chief assured them the suspects would be arrested.
Official statistics say about 25,000 rapes are committed every year in India, a nation of 1.2 billion people. Activists, though, say that number is just a tiny percentage of the actual number, since victims are often pressed by family or police to stay quiet about sexual assaults.
Indian officials, who for decades had done little about sexual violence, have faced growing public anger since the December 2012 fatal gang rape of a young woman on a moving New Delhi bus, an attack that sparked national outrage.
The nationwide outcry led the federal government to rush legislation doubling prison terms for rapists to 20 years and criminalizing voyeurism, stalking and the trafficking of women. The law also makes it a crime for officers to refuse to open cases when complaints are made.
©2014The Associated Press
WEST KELOWNA, B.C. – Cooler weather and light rain in parts of British Columbia provided some relief for firefighters Saturday, including those fighting a blaze near the southern interior city of Kelowna.
Fire officials said higher humidity and cooler weather has stopped the 2.5-square-kilometre blaze from spreading.
“There was minimal fire growth overnight,” said Randy Burgess, the man in charge of fighting the fire at Smith Creek near West Kelowna, a municipality near Kelowna.
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B.C. residents still under evacuation alerts and orders due to wildfires
PHOTOS: Forest fire near Lytton
PHOTOS: Wildfires burning across B.C.
Rain this weekend will help some wildfires, but strong winds may hurt others
“The weather is definitely helping us today,” he told a news conference on Saturday.
Burgess said it is too early to tell when some 2,500 people asked to leave their homes can return. It’s one of the 10 evacuation orders or alerts that are in effect around the province.
Jason Luciw of the Central Okanagan Regional District Emergency Operations Centre said the Smith Creek evacuation order was expected to stay in place for the immediate future.
“Until we get a handle on the fire and we’re comfortable where it’s at, we have to keep the orders in place,” said Luciw. “RCMP are patrolling the area and blockading the area to make sure that the area is properly evacuated.”
Jake Sparks, of Nelson, B.C., one of the firefighters battling the blaze on the ground said the difficult terrain and the heat makes the job challenging.
“It’s pretty tough, there are some parts that are steeper than others,” said Sparks, who has seven years experience fighting forest fires.
“A lot of the job is just digging and keeping your wits about you.”
The B.C. Wildfire Management Branch said thanks to the improved weather conditions, much of the northern and central areas of the province have lowered their ratings to low or moderate.
About 200 firefighters from Eastern Canada were expected to arrive this weekend to help fight some of the 159 fires blazing across the province. Some were due to arrive Saturday in Prince George.
Displaced people in the West Kelowna have been asked to stay with friends and family, and those who have nowhere to go have been issued hotel passes, Luciw said.
Some people have even contacted emergency services to offer their homes for evacuees to stay in, Luciw said.
“It’s really encouraging to see how the community steps up and offers to help in a situation like this,” he said.
West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater said residents appear to be taking the situation well, though many are concerned for their homes.
“Most people are very patient,” he said. “This community has been through this before.”
“In this area this is a bit of a way of life,” said Findlater, who had to leave his home because of a fire in 2009.
The Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre said there is a reduced risk of power lines being cut by the fire, though residents are being urged to be prepared for an outage.
However, it is unclear if weather conditions were aiding firefighting efforts in a 15-square-kilometre blaze north of Lytton, 265 kilometres northeast of Vancouver.
Temperatures have been lower, but conditions are windy, making it possible for fires to spread quickly, said David Steeves, the fire information officer for the area.
“It changes from moment to moment, it is very fluid and dynamic,” said Steeves. “You can go from a very safe situation in one minute to a very high level of danger in the next.”
The hilly terrain also adds to the challenges firefighters face, he said.
The Thompson-Nicola Regional District issued an evacuation order affecting more than 100 people in the area.
Becky Blixrud, an information officer with the district, said it was unclear when the order will be lifted.
-By Steven Chua in Vancouver with files from Jonathan Hayward in West Kelowna