Firefighters converge at a house fire on Commonage Place Thursday afternoon. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)

Cause of North Okanagan house fire still under investigation

Mom rescued sleeping baby from Thursday’s blaze

Update: Friday, 9:45 a.m.

The cause of the Thursday afternoon house fire at Commonage Place on Mission Hill is not yet known. Vernon Fire Rescue Services began its investigation Friday morning, but deputy fire chief Scott Hemstad says it won’t be completed until sometime next week.

Hemstad has begun doing interviews with firefighters who attended the blaze.

“Then I need to speak with property owners and check any witnesses’ statements, and then go through the scene,” he said.

More updates will follow as further information comes to light.

…………………………………………………………………………

A mother’s instinct kicked in immediately as a Vernon mom rescued her one-year-old son from their burning home Thursday afternoon.

The family’s Commonage Place home on Mission Hill went up in flames while the youngest was sleeping, shortly after 2 p.m. The family of five, including three boys, have been renters at the home for eight years.

“I feel like I should buy a lottery ticket,” said the father, who did not want to give his name, holding his youngest in his arms after arriving from work. “My wife and youngest were able to get out. One son is in Vancouver for the week, and he’s usually sleeping in that room (pointing to upstairs window) about this time of day, and my other son was with me.”

The man said his wife had also thrown the family cat outside, then ran back into the house to retrieve family photos, confirmed by eyewitness Catherine Pynappels of Kelowna, who called 911 when she saw black smoke billowing into the air as she arrived in Vernon to visit her mom.

“I saw the flames driving up to the back of the house. It looked like a big cedar at first but then you could see the flames went from the cedar to the back of the house,” said Pynappels.

“I stopped a gentleman a couple of houses over, he was doing his siding, and let him know there was a house on fire a couple over.

“I pulled up to the house. The lady had her baby in her arms and she ran back into the house. I went into the house and told her she had to get out.

“She was frantically looking for her pictures or her hard drive. I grabbed her and said, ‘you have to get out.’”

Vernon Fire Rescue Services Chief David Lind, who helped battle the blaze himself, said the cat was found alive and taken to a vet for a check-up.

It is believed the fire started at the back of the house, spread to some bushes and then the home.

Lind said the original call came in to the station as a grass fire.

“Crews responded and when they got there, they saw flames coming out of the roof of a house,” said Lind, who was still on-scene nearly three hours after the original call. “The crews were able to isolate the fire to the home on fire. They did a remarkable job of preventing the fire from spreading to a neighbouring house. I’m very impressed with my team.”

The neighbouring home to the north did suffer slight damage as some of the home’s siding melted from the heat. A car was parked in the driveway and one firefighter could be seen pounding on the front door to alert anyone in the home of the fire next door. Nobody answered. It was later determined the homeowners were away at the time.

READ MORE: Drugs, cash and 11 people apprehended at Vernon house

The father of the now-displaced family said they had plenty of relatives in the area that would help look after them as things get sorted out.

Asked if he had insurance, he said he thinks the owner has insurance but he and his family did not have renter’s insurance.

“We didn’t have anything of value that’s not replaceable,” he said. “Facebook buy and sell, you get everything in there for a small price.”

Investigators will be back at the home Friday to try and determine a cause of the fire.


@VernonNews
jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

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