A fire at a seniors’ residence in Coaldale has claimed the life of an elderly woman.
Friday at approximately 1 a.m., Coaldale RCMP members responded to a 911 call of a female in distress at a three-storey apartment on 19 Street and 23 Avenue in Coaldale. The nature of the 911 distress call was not known at that time.
“It was a 911 call that came in from the person in the apartment, but we had no contact from them (after that),” explained Coaldale RCMP Sgt. Glenn Henry at a press briefing on the incident late Friday morning.
Upon arriving, Coaldale RCMP members realized the woman’s residence was engulfed in flames and subsequently attempted entry into the third-floor apartment.
“The officers got into the building, and they got into the apartment door, but they couldn’t even see past the smoke,” Henry stated.
The officers then retreated and called in the Coaldale Fire Department. They began evacuating the rest of the building while waiting for the arrival of fire and EMS personnel.
When the Coaldale Fire Department arrived, its firefighters entered the apartment and discovered the elderly female occupant unresponsive. The woman was later declared deceased at the scene from what is believed to be smoke inhalation. The Calgary Chief Medical Examiner’s Office is working to officially determine the cause of death.
The Coaldale RCMP and the Coaldale Fire Department are investigating the cause of the fire, but Henry confirmed they do not suspect foul play.
The family of the deceased woman has been notified, he said, but the victim’s name will not be released out of respect for her and her family.
Ambulance demand increases
There was less major fire action around southern Alberta in 2018 compared to the year before.
But that doesn’t mean Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services were any less busy last year.
“Fires are hard to predict,” said Lethbridge Fire Chief Rich Hildebrand in a year-end interview with The Herald.
“They are random events. It can happen anywhere.”
In 2017, the city dealt with two large apartment fires and multiple threatening grassfires, but in 2018 nothing matched them in scale or magnitude.
“We’ve been really fortunate this year (2018) with no major grassfires,” Hildebrand said.
“We had a bit of a close call with an apartment fire. Unfortunately, we had a death there. But it was contained to one apartment for the most part. This year (2018), although it’s been a bit maybe quieter on the large fire front, certainly the demand for ambulance service has just continued to increase. The EMS risk just continues to grow.”
Hildebrand stressed the ongoing trend is the increase year over year on ambulance calls. A large part of it is directly related to the bigger community issues dealing with the continuing drug crisis that has been wearing on his team.
Christmas tree pickup Jan. 12
Now that Christmas is over, what to do with the Christmas tree?
For some families the answer is simple: put it back in the storage box.
But for traditionalists who prefer a real evergreen, Lethbridge youth groups are ready to help. Starting on Jan. 12. they’ll be partnering with Lethbridge recycling personnel to put those trees to another use.
For 25 years, officials have invited local youth groups to take on a part of the city, picking up trees and taking them to the waste and recycling centre. That’s where they’re chipped to be used as environmentally friendly mulch in spring.
About 75,000 trees have been collected — weighing more than 1.5 million kilograms — since the no-charge program began.
Residents are simply asked to place their tree in the front or rear of their home, near the place where they place their garbage carts for collection. But first tinsel, lights and other decorations should be removed — if they’re not, the participating groups have been instructed not to collect them.
Pickup is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. on Jan. 12, but officials say collection will continue for several days, depending on weather, volume and other factors. If a stripped-down tree is missed when the neighbours’ were collected, residents may call the infrastructure service line, 403-329-7367 to have it done.
Truck collection opens to public
What started out as a family business later developed into a major hobby for George Kirkham, who opened his large collection of International trucks to the public on Saturday in Lethbridge for them to see and learn about the evolution of International trucks.
For decades Kirkham has been helping people with their restoration projects on International trucks through locating parts and giving them photos or live examples of what the originals look like completely restored. What started as a one-truck passion project grew into the impressive Kirkham International Truck Collection.
“The Kirkham collection started out as one little red pickup truck and we have grown over the last 30 years from one to around 60 trucks and a few trailers,” says Kirkham.
“This is my life. My father spent 39 years with International and I have been a dealer for 34 years and sold for the dealer in town for seven years before that. We have little trucks and big trucks, trucks from 1913 through to a 1999 armoured car that we just acquired this year, a truck that built the Boulder Dam, five fire trucks and a few tow-trucks.”
The motortruck collection is open to the public about four times a year and is also available for private functions. For more information on The Kirkham International Motortruck Collection, visit oldinternationaltrucks.com.
Woman sentenced for theft
A woman who pleaded guilty to several criminal offences is lucky she’s going to jail, for only 11 days.
Amber Yvonne Herdman was sentenced Thursday in Lethbridge provincial court to 37 days behind bars, but she was given credit for the equivalent of 26 days she had already spent in custody.
The Crown prosecutor and defence lawyer recommended the sentence, but it didn’t sit well with the judge, who suggested the sentenced might not be high enough given the serious nature of the offences. She accepted the recommendation, however, but only because it was a joint submission by both counsel.
Crown prosecutor Bruce Ainscough told court Herdman and a man stole a bottle of liquor from a city store last September, and when police found them in a van about two hours later and arrested them, they discovered the vehicle had been taken without the owner’s permission. Herdman, who was driving the van, had also been drinking, although her alcohol level did not exceed the legal limit. However, she only had a graduated driver’s licence which prohibited her from drinking any alcohol before driving.
Herdman pleaded guilty to one count each of theft under $5,000 and taking a vehicle without permission, and was sentenced to seven days in jail. She also pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawfully being in a house, for which she was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Flames to help aid charities
The Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce and the Calgary Flames will partner to raise money for local charities for the Southern Alberta Flames Family Day game in February at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
OJ Pries, account executive for the Calgary Flames, said he wanted to help raise money for local charities in Lethbridge.
“Being from this area, I wanted to do something to give back to the Lethbridge area that helped get me to where I am, and gave me all the amenities that I’ve had in my life,” said Pries during a launch event Thursday.
Organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters, University of Lethbridge Horns Hockey Alumni Association and McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association have all benefitted from Flames’ support with this partnership.
Jen Visser, executive director for Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Lethbridge and District, said once the holidays are over it’s still necessary to help people in need.
“You still have those families living in poverty, and kids who need support, you still have homelessness,” said Visser. “All of our organizations need to continue the work that we do, so something like this is very beneficial.”
Through the ticket fundraiser, the Coaldale Kinsmen Club is also supported by the Flames.
Each ticket purchased through the Southern Alberta Flames Family Day offer will have $5 returned directly to the southern Alberta Community.
The Southern Alberta Flames Family Day game between the Flames and Arizona Coyotes will be Feb. 18 at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at http://www.calgaryflames.com/southernalberta.
Sex assault support centre opens
There’s new help for southern Alberta victims of sexual assault.
On Monday, the government-supported Chinook Sexual Assault Centre opened in downtown Lethbridge. Open to all, it will offer crisis support, victim advocacy and counselling services.
“It is staggering to think that one in three women and girls, and one in six men and boys, will experience sexual abuse or assault in their lifetime,” says Kristine Cassie, chief executive officer at the new facility.
“We are thankful to the government of Alberta for their investment in addressing sexual violence by committing to fund the Chinook Sexual Assault Centre,” opening its doors in the Professional Building next to the post office.
By offering a range of services, says centre board chair Bill Kaye, the new resource should reduce victims’ confusion and trauma.
“Although the CSAC is located in Lethbridge, our reach is in all of southwestern Alberta,” he adds.
“Sexual violence has no limits and we want and need to reach the rural areas.”
Its services will be available to everyone, Cassie says, “however they identify.”
Crisis support will be offered on the phone (403-694-1094) as well as in person during the day or by appointment in the evening. The centre will also provide victim advocacy with the police and courts as well as “system navigation” and education services.