Vernon fire crews battle a stubborn blaze in the Arbor Lee apartments next to Turtle Mountain Monday evening. (Jennifer Smith/Morning Star)

UPDATE: Condo fire forces out families

Heavy damage leaves several families homeless

The blaze that broke out in a Vernon condominium complex Monday has forced 29 people from their homes.

Eight units in Arbor Lee Strata (3800 40th Ave.) were heavily damaged (while damage was also sustained to additional units) after a fire broke out on the balcony of one of the suites. Vernon Fire Rescue Services responded to the stubborn structure fire shortly before 7 p.m.

An estimated $2 million in damage occurred and 29 individuals from 11 families are currently receiving Emergency Social Services assistance.

“Some families are staying with family and friends while others are staying at the Vernon Lodge,” said VFRS deputy chief Scott Hemstad.

Despite the damage, no occupants were injured from the fire. In fact some four-legged residents were saved.

“After the fire was extinguished we actually located three family pets. So some good news out of a difficult night,” said Hemstad.

Even Karmen Krystik, whose unit the fire started in, was able to get her pets out safely, as her sister Kortney told The Morning Star.

“The fire started on her patio, she was just getting home with her son, heard the bang, seen the smoke and told him to stay in the car and ran inside grabbed her cat and dog and ran out. She lost everything she owns aside from what they had on them.”

Kortney is hoping friends and the community can help her sister out during this time of need (donations are being accepted via email transfers to karmenkrystik@gmail.com or by visiting the Royal Bank Village Green Centre account #07950-5134143 250 309 0808.

“I’m still in shock,” said Karmen, who is now homeless and in need of a two-bedroom, pet friendly rental – along with several other residents from the condo.

A gofundme account has also been set up for another family who has lost everything in the fire: https://www.gofundme.com/fabnwe-emergency-funding

Alysia Preece lives in one of the adjacent units, but not the affected block (the fire was contained to a neighbouring 14-unit block) and got a call from her sister shortly after 6 p.m. saying she needed to get home and get her animals out as her house was on fire.

“But it wasn’t our house,” said five-year-old Chloe Preece, wearing a mask as she watched the firefighters battle the blaze.

“It was very scary; I was shaking when I got home,” said Alysia.

Residents and bystanders were choking on the thick smoke from the blaze, some given masks by emergency crews.

“The toxins that come out of structure fires…is extremely toxic,” said Hemstad. “I would discourage people from being around smoke that was coming off a structure fire.”

Residents in the eight heavily damaged suites likely won’t be able to return for several months.

While the blaze started on the balcony, it got into the attic and spread to nearby units and proved to be stubborn for crews who had to cut open the roof to get at it.

“It became a long and difficult struggle based on the years of construction of that building,” said Hemstad, estimating the building to be built sometime between 1950 and 1970. “It was a difficult fire.

“At one point we had to pull our crews out and go defensive which means that it was too dangerous to be inside the structure.”

The building was heavily damaged by fire, heat, smoke and water.

Coldstream and BX fire departments each supplied fire fighters to help sustain operations during the fire. RCMP, BCAS, and the gas and electrical utilities also supported the response activities.

The housing complex has been secured and fire investigators were on scene Tuesday. At this point no cause of the fire has been determined.

While no residents were injured, one fire fighter received medical attention for minor injuries. But overall, the team effort and work which was needed throughout the night to douse the blaze, is applauded.

“I am impressed with our first arriving fire fighters, they did the right things in those first moments which sets up the rest of the operation for success,” said Lind. “Throughout this event I witnessed excellent team work by all those involved.”

Narrow roadways and a swarm of onlookers created challenges for crews trying to access the complex. This, and the fact that Arbor Lee backs onto Turtle Mountain, is a concern for neighbours such as Dave Worrall.

“We’ve always been worried about a fire on the hill here,” he said.

Hemstad asks that residents plan and practice a fire escape plan from their home.

“Remember, you need two ways out.”

 

Jennifer Smith/Morning Star Chloe Preece, five, and her parents try to block out the thick smoke with masks while watching firefighters battle flames in the condos where they live. The fire was contained to 11 units and did not damage their home.

Just Posted

BC Housing working quickly to redesign Kelowna project for the homeless

They are working on “improving the appearance of the building, including landscaping.”

Bed and Breakfast won’t return to Lake Country

After burning down in July, the owners are selling the A&S Lakeview property

Suspect identified in brazen daytime robbery

The suspect is 32-year-old Dale Christopher MacPherson of Peachland

Kelowna-developed app brings static images to life

Maxogram links static images to video for a whole new take on marketing and information

The Okanagan may not get snow for Christmas

You may not want to bet on having a White Christmas

Me Too At Work: Sexual assault and harassment in the B.C. workplace

Introducing an in-depth look at who is affected and what can be done

B.C. children adoption rates lagging, despite increased funding: watchdog

More than 1,000 children children are still waiting to be adopted, new report shows

Hurdles ahead for Sicamous off-road vehicle bylaw

RCMP, ICBC and province not yet on-board with district

FortisBC to lower natural gas rates in 2018

Rate changes to impact the Lower Mainland, Kootenays, Interior and Vancouver Island

DeHart: New downtown stop for unique beer and wine products

Kelowna hotelier Maxine DeHart takes a look at the local business scene in her weekly column

Visit with Santa amidst the Big White snow

Snow lovers can head up to Big White this month to visit with Santa

Four-month-old baby girl critically injured in Toronto

Baby, a man and a woman in serious condition

Google searches suggest 2017 a tough year

What were Canadians were curious about: Google searches suggest 2017 a tough year

Democrat wins stunning red-state Alabama Senate upset

Democrat Doug Jones wins stunning red-state Alabama Senate upset against Roy Moore

Most Read