Lightning-sparked forest fire nears Olympics mountain in British Columbia

Hot, dry weather combined with a lightning strike to spark a rapidly spreading forest fire on a British Columbia mountain that will host next year's Winter Olympics.

The fire, on Blackcomb Mountain above Whistler Village, wasn't threatening the nearby resort or any Olympic venues so far.

Fire Chief Rob Whitton said the blaze is burning in dry timber about 3 miles from Whistler and covered about 250 acres on Friday.

Evacuation plans are in place if winds push the fire toward the village, but no houses have been lost at this time, he said.

Blackcomb Mountain is home to the Whistler Sliding Centre, which will host the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton events.

With the approaching storms, resort area officials were able to get all visitors and workers off Blackcomb and adjacent Whistler mountains before a lightning strike started the fire.

Another lightning strike sparked a wildfire in the nearby Callaghan Valley, home to the Olympic ski-jump events, but was brought under control by a rapid-intervention crew and water bombers.

Toronto cleanup starts as deal ends strike

Toronto city workers have started the mammoth task of cleaning up accumulated trash now that a six-week strike has ended.

The 30,000 inside and outside civic workers ratified an agreement to end the strike that included garbage collectors. Dozens of temporary garbage sites were set up in city parks and arena parking lots during the strike.

They started cleaning city street garbage containers early Friday, while curbside household trash pickup will resume Tuesday (after the Monday civic holiday), officials said.

The deal to end the strike includes a 6 percent raise over three years and an agreement to continue with the contentious issue of allowing current workers to accumulate sick-leave days for early retirement or pay.

News in brief

• Swedish telecom company Ericsson won the auction to buy the wireless unit of bankrupt Nortel Networks for $1.13 billion (U.S.), but the takeover might be reviewed by the Canadian government. Canadian-based Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, offered $1.1 billion (U.S.) and said the government should not allow a foreign company to control such a big chunk of Canada's research and technology interests.

• Gambling revenues dropped last year for the first time in 16 years as fewer Canadians played the lotteries or bet on horse racing and video lottery terminals, Statistics Canada said. The economy was blamed for the slump while casinos and slot machines still showed gains. Even so, gambling generated $12.4 billion (U.S.) in revenues for governments, with Saskatchewan the highest at $750 per capita, followed by Alberta and Manitoba.

Facts and figures

Canada's gross domestic product fell 0.5 percent in May, led by energy, manufacturing, construction and wholesale trade sectors. Sales in real estate and retail trade advanced.

The Canadian dollar continues higher, reaching 92.71 U.S. cents on Friday, while the U.S. currency returned $1.0787 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada interest rate is unchanged at 0.25 percent while the prime lending rate is 2.25 percent.

Stock markets are higher, with Toronto's composite index at 10,814 points while the TSX Venture index is 1,149 points.

Lotto 6-49: (Wednesday) 3, 23, 29, 37, 44 and 45; bonus 39. (July 25) 10, 19, 29, 32, 38 and 44; bonus 3. Super 7: (July 24) 1, 5, 18, 27, 29, 30 and 34; bonus 39.

Regional briefs

• While Toronto, Montreal and much of Eastern Canada continue enduring a cool, wet summer, the West is cooking. Vancouver registered its hottest day on record Wednesday at 93 F (33.8 C), eclipsing the previous high of 92 in 1960. Elsewhere, in British Columbia, it was 100 in Abbotsford, 104 in Port Alberni and 106 in Bella Coola.

• EnCana wants to make someone a millionaire with its reward of that amount for the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for natural-gas pipeline bombings. The Calgary-based gas-and-oil company doubled the reward after six explosions over the past nine months in northern British Columbia. Police said they believe the bomber lives in the hamlet of Tomslake, B.C., near the Alberta border, based on letters sent to newspapers.

• New Brunswick has a new series of license plates, including one featuring the provincial slogan "Be . . . in this place." The plates, which are optional for vehicle owners, include the province's new logo and colors.

• It was a "nude" awakening for a Winnipeg man who confronted a naked intruder in his Fort Garry home. The homeowner was assaulted as he chased the man away. Police took the description and arrested a suspect nearby, still in his "birthday suit," they said.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.

Lightning-sparked forest fire nears Olympics mountain in British Columbia 08/01/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 1, 2009 5:56pm]

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