An unexploded explosive ordnance found by hikers in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park May 26 was live; military called in to dispose of it. (File photo)

Military swoops in after B.C. hikers find live mortar

CFB Esquimault team comes in and disposes of live ordnance found in North Okanagan provincial park

A mortar found by hikers in Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park May 26 was live.

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team from CFB Esquimault responded to a call regarding a potential unexploded explosive ordnance (UXO) found in the park, following direction from the Joint Task Force (Pacific) at the request of local authorities.

“The EOD team found one live mortar round, and although it was live, it was deemed safe to handle and was transported by the EDO team to another location to be safely disposed of,” said Lt. (N) Melissa Kia, public affairs officer with Maritime Forces Pacific Canadian Armed Forces.

“The EOD teams are specially trained to identify, handle, and dispose of explosives. Munitions, no matter how old, should always be treated as live. If you encounter one, do not disturb it, and contact the local police immediately. For safety reasons, people should not use a cell phone around suspected ordnance.”

Mortars found in the North Okanagan are quite common, the result of military training from Camp Vernon during the Second World War.

Five years ago, a live mortar was found in Kalamalka Lake by a paddleboarder. The Okanagan Indian Band has made repeated sweeps of areas near Round Lake searching for old ordnances.

RELATED: Military makes no waves in UXO removal

Kia said UXO and other military ammunition findings happen almost every day.

“Since the beginning of the year, the Canadian Armed Forces has responded to 154 requests from law enforcement for the recovery and disposal of various pieces of military ammunition,” said Kia. “To note, in 2017 the Canadian Armed Forces responded 566 times.”

The military ammunition items come from a wide variety of sources.

These can include souvenirs and relics brought to Canada from past conflict areas or items that are recovered from military ranges and training areas. There are also instances where specialized military items such as marine location markers used in search and rescue operations are found washed up on shore. Additionally, there are many items that are purchased by or from collectors.

It’s important that members of the public, said Kia, treat these items with care and dispose of them properly.

“Firstly, and most importantly, citizens should not have any apprehension or reservations in reporting that they have an item that may be of military origin,” said Kia. “The primary intent of the police and the Canadian Armed Forces is to remove a potentially dangerous item and to protect the communities they represent.

“The recommended protocol for such items is don’t touch or move it, leave the item in its found location and contact their local police. The police attend the location, will contact the Canadian Armed Forces and a response team will be dispatched. The Canadian Armed Forces maintains the capability to respond quickly to situations like this 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year.”

Any UXO should be considered very dangerous. Touching, moving or picking up a piece of a UXO is extremely dangerous, and it may injure or kill you and everyone else near you.

“Old ordnance is inherently dangerous and unstable,” said Kia. “They can be set-off by very little or even no movement. Only trained experts should be relied upon to deal with UXO; only trained explosive experts can tell the difference between something that is “live” and could explode, and something that is safe.”



roger@vernonmorningstar.com

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