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As early as next week, expect to see smoke above the Bench in Merritt.

Merritt Fire Rescue Department Chief David Tomkinson says BC Wildfire crews will be assisting local firefighters with a fuel management project to address priority issues in the city's northwest sector identified in the Community Wildfire Prevention Plan (CWPP).

"There was a treatment in that area during the pine beetle epidemic, but now we are in a maintenance phase. Crews form the BC Wildfire will lend assistance as we look to remove some of the fuels above the 'Bench' area."

Crews will be working to prune ladder fuels, pile and burn wood debris where fuels are excessive, and also take care of hazards related to dead and dangerous trees.

Burning will only take place on days with appropriate venting, to minimize the impacts of the resulting smoke.

 

Reassurance from the BC River Forecasting Centre for those that live close to rivers and lakes in the region.

Head forecaster Dave Campbell remains confident that with spring just around the corner, there's little chance of wide spread flooding in the Nicola Valley.

"Lower than normal snow packs indicate a decreased risk. It doesn't mean right now there is now risk, it just means the risk is diminished."

Campbell says snow packs in the region are about 13% below normal, and about 15% lower than usual across the province.

Kinder Morgan Canada says its final cost estimate for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion has gone up.

It's now expected to cost $7.4 billion, up from a previous estimate of $6.8 billion.

The proposal to triple the capacity of the existing Alberta-to-BC pipeline received federal approval in November.

The company says the higher cost is due to a number of factors including costs associated with the National Energy Board's 157 conditions.

It also cites project changes as a result of public feedback, including thicker pipe wall, additional drilled crossings in environmentally sensitive areas and a tunnel through Burnaby Mountain.

School District 58 still waiting to see full impact the closure of Tolko's Merritt sawmill will have on enrollment.

While the projected number of students in the fall is up slightly at 2,107, Superintendent Stephen McNiven it's not known yet what effect the closing of the sawmill, and the subsequent laying off, of more than 200 workers will have on enrollment moving forward.

"It comes up for us in conversations around two things. The first being enrollment, but more importantly to us is how the families are doing in our community, and specifically how the children are doing. So, we have them in mind, and continue to wait to see the overall impact of the closure."

McNiven does note that he has been made aware that a handful former Tolko employees have found jobs with Weyerhaeuser in Princeton, which means their children will stay in the district.

Merritt RCMP detachment in need of spare guards.

The detachment currently employees three full-time guards, but S/Sgt Sheila White says soon they will just have two spares, down from as many as seven in years past.

"Because of the volume of prisoners we have in Merritt, we do need a compliment of guards to fill the various shifts we have."

Initial training takes just a day.

Those applying are subject to a criminal background check, which in some cases can take up to a year, but can be expedited by White under certain circumstances.

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