Kelowna woman who started North Okanagan fires released | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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Kelowna woman who started North Okanagan fires released

One of the fires started by Sandra Ratcliffe May 28, 2022, near Enderby.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Sylvia Voets

A Kelowna woman who started fires in Enderby earlier this year had walked 90 kilometres pushing a shopping cart from West Kelowna before she set two trees ablaze.

Luckily, firefighters were quickly on the scene and extinguished the two separate fires.

Sandra Lynn Ratcliffe was arrested shortly afterwards and charged with arson. She has remained in custody since.

Today, Oct. 11, Ratcliffe appeared virtually at the Salmon Arm courthouse and apologized for what she did.

The court heard how the day before the fires, the 45-year-old had been evicted for using drugs and starting a fire at the Canadian Mental Health Association supportive housing unit where she'd been living in Kelowna for four years.

She left with her cat and pushing a shopping cart, headed north.

The day after she left, May 28, she deliberately started the two fires.

The court heard how Ratcliffe had missed her methadone for a few days and had "impaired reasoning and delusional thinking" and had serious mental health issues.

"I'm very, very sorry for what I did," Ratcliffe told the court. "I’m happy for a second chance in life, I’m happy to be sober."

The court heard Ratcliffe was using methamphetamine prior to the arson. She also has a long history of heroin addiction.

A psychiatric report diagnosed a developmental delay and traumatic brain injury.

Judge George Leven said she'd experienced a life of abuse and neglect and had a very difficult childhood.

She'd been sexually abused by her father and ended up homeless at age 15.

The judge said it was "remarkable" that Ratcliffe had a small criminal record which only started in 2015.

"For the most part she has been a law-abiding citizen," he said.

The court heard how Ratcliffe had taken significant steps while in custody and was now sober.

Both the Crown and defence lawyers, along with the judge commented on the huge risks involved in starting the fires.

"Luckily they did not spread to become a wildfire," Crown counsel Danika Heighes told the court.

With the exception of the two trees, nothing else was damaged.

Both Crown and defence said a sentence of time served in custody was appropriate, meaning Ratcliffe's four months in jail equates to a six-month prison sentence.

The Crown argued for three years probation while the defence asked for 18 months.

Ultimately, Judge Leven agreed to a sentence of time served and settled on two years probation.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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