After hours spent extinguishing the fire that scorched a Rutland apartment building yesterday, the Kelowna Fire Department has determined the cause of the inferno: a barbeque on a second floor balcony.
Deputy fire chief Lou Wilde says residents were using the barbeque at the time, but it's still to be determined whether it was human error or a faulty mechanism that ignited the 52 unit building.
“That added most of the fuel and the ignition source to this fire,” Wilde says, but another barbeque that fell from an overhead balcony added more fuel to the fire.
Thankfully, there are no reports of injuries to residents or firefighters.
Wilde says it's likely the sound of an explosion heard by witnesses came from the barbeque.
They determined the fire started on the second floor but quickly moved up the side of the building, into the attic and roof.
“This building has sprinklers in the suites and in the hallways,” Wilde says, but not on the balconies or attic, which allowed the fire to spread upwards.
“There is very little fire damage in the hallways on the second and third floor, the walls are still white. What that indicates is the fire went up the outside of the building, got in the attic and burnt the roof of it,” he says.
And despite the water damage inside the suites, all is not lost.
“I know the first three floors have a lot of personal contents that will be salvagable...when it comes to people picking up the rest of their lives, they're gonna be in pretty good shape,” he says. Though the damage on the fourth floor is severe, he says objects kept in files cabinets or drawers could be salvaged.
The building will be turned over to Kelowna Condos today for inspections and insurance assessment. The B.C. Safety Authority and gas inspector will arrive later today to examine the barbeque.
Fire Chief Jeff Carlisle says such wood frame constructions should have a full sprinkler system.
“The roof assembly and the crawl space in the roof is not protected by a sprinkler nor is it fire stopped...this is a typical four storey walk-up that has this problem. When the fire starts on the outside it progress up ...and into the roof,” he says, which was the same case with the 2011 fire at the Laurentian Heights apartments.
Carlisle says some buildings in Kelowna have sprinklers in both the windows and balconies.
So far Emergency Social Services has registered 69 residents from 39 of the 52 suites. They will be meeting this evening at the Salvation Army Church on Sutherland Avenue.
The roof and fourth floor of the Legacy apartment building sustained the most damage from yesterday's fire
(JULIE WHITTET /InfoTel Multimedia)
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