From fighting wildfires to dismantling a Angel crime ring, a group of RCMP police officers were recognized by the Southeast District RCMP during their annual awards ceremony on Thursday afternoon in Kelowna.
Chief superintendent Brad Hugali said he couldn’t be more proud to bearwitness to the accomplishments of so many police officers, employees of the RCMP and partners with the BC Conservation Service.
Most notably, the ceremony recognized the efforts of members of the RCMP and BC Conservation Service that risked their lives to combat the Elephant Hill wildfire near Ashcroft in July 2017.
Members of the RCMP E Division march in for the start of the awards ceremony. Long service awards, commanding officer’s commensations and E predicate branch awards are being handed out. pic.twitter.com/MLABVSNKqy— Kelowna Capital News (@KelownaCapNews) October 10, 2019
At its height, the Elephant Hill wildfire grew to 52,600 hectares in size and was the biggest fire burning in B.C. at the time.
Homes in Ashcroft and Loon Lake were destroyed by the wildfire that was classified as “out of control.”
“A perfect example to show the dedication to duty is demonstrated by Const. Nicholas Theoret who was the acting commander of Ashcroft during that day,” said Hugali.
“He watched his house burn, but he remained on duty to help other people in the community be safe and no lives were lost.”
Sergeant Brandon Buliziuk, who had no experience fighting wildfires, recalled the start of the wildfire near Ashcroft on that fateful day.
“I remember cresting the hill to drop into Cache Creek and that was when you could see fire on every side of the community,” she said.
“It hit right then that this isn’t minor, this is going to be crazy and it’s time to get to work.”
There was also special recognition to members of the Federal Serious and Organized Crime (FSOC) group who were involved in Project E-Predicate.
Project E-Predicate was an investigation that spanned over two-years across international borders in an effort to charge two senior Angels members and six others across B.C. for drug trafficking.
Four of those eight, including David Gillies, the vice-president of the Angels Kelowna chapter, was also charged with conspiring to import 500 kilograms worth of cocaine.
”What’s so significant about E-Predicate is that it started out as a small group of police officers having a goal and ended up apprehending and convicting a large number of people that included individuals that were linked to the Hell’s Angels,” said Chief Hugali.
“To me, that is a significant disruption into organized crime that took place and began right here in Kelowna.”
Several police officers were also recongized for their long-term service with the police force.