PENTICTON - Several Penticton businesses and services have lost their livelihood, at least temporarily, due to a downtown fire this morning and some of them are calling the blaze suspicious.
Crews responded to a fire in the 200 block of Main Street around 5:40 a.m. today, Sept. 30, where they found smoke coming from Fibonacci Roastery and Cafe and Hooked on Books. They quickly got the blaze under control but have been battling hot spots in the sawdust insulation between the floors.
The book store and cafe, along with Softy’s Shoes and Comfort next door, are closed today as firefighters mop up the scene and begin their investigation into the early morning blaze. At least eight upper office suites are also affected.
Lindsey Hall, along with wife Joullia, own Softy’s Shoes and Comfort, the business immediately north of Fibonacci Roastery and Cafe, where the fire is believed to have originated.
“We started the business in 2002. It’s a blow, a shock. Fourteen years in business — right now I feel a little, I want to say ‘raped’ because I have no control over my operation,” Lindsey says.
Hall’s shoe store was in a separate building but adjacent to Fibonacci.
“It’a a separate building, but I guess these old buildings have porous concrete walls and such. The firemen said under pressure, the fire will force the smoke right through,” he says. “It’s a pretty old building. I would suspect the Theodosakis building would be entirely compromised now.“
Hall says when he was at the scene earlier this morning, he heard firefighters looking for access to the crawlspace of Fibonacci Roastery and Cafe, eventually discovering fire underneath the building.
Hall has yet to gain access to his shop, but has heard he is facing smoke damage, and thinks there might be water damage as well.
“They were shooting water into the upstairs of the Fibonacci building, and blew out the windows in the back of the building, so where did that water come down? God only knows. I’ve never encountered anything like this before,” Lindsey says. “The firefighters told to me to get hold of my insurance company, and that’s all I’ve been able to do so far. Life has a way of throwing little twists at you, and if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.”
He says the fire is affecting several other people downtown, not just the two businesses directly hit by the fire.
“There’s an architect and others who rent office space above Fibonacci and they will be drastically affected,” he says. “There’s a whole bunch of things that happen in events like this, and its tragic to see it happening in downtown, the heart of our city.”
He says he hopes the building won’t have to be knocked down to leave a gaping hole Main Street similar to that left by the Three Gables Hotel fire.
Lindsey doesn't know what started the fire, but says another business owner overheard an insurance adjuster on scene calling the fire suspicious because fire was found below the main floor.
Michael Suhr had been renting a business space upstairs in the building for the past three years.
“The building is owned by Nikkos Theodosakis, and we’ve never had a fire problem at all in the building, we get regular inspections, so this is quite a surprise this morning, when you’re ready to go to work,” he says.
Suhr's work involves computer games development and he is self-employed, so he’s able to take the week off if necessary, or work from home. This morning firefighters were retrieving office belongings for Suhr as he waited on the street.
"Firefighters are telling me my suite has been pretty much untouched, so I might get in at the end of the week,” he says. “I’ve been here for years, I helped renovated the space. It started as a cooperative for artists, filmmakers and stuff like that, hence the name, Second Story Studios. It’s on the second story, but it’s also a place to make stories."
Suhr says there are two counsellors that have office space upstairs and Norman Goddard Architecture has been there almost eight years.
"We’ve never had a problem like this, because we have regular inspections, so it is kind of suspicious,” he says.
Suhr says he believes the fire began outside the building in the back alley, adding firefighters aren’t saying anything as the investigation is ongoing.
Penticton Museum Archivist Jean Boyle says the building was constructed prior to the 1930s, but could not say exactly what year it was built.
Penticton Fire Department Captain Dennis Noble was still on scene this afternoon as a small crew of firefighters continued to mop up.
“The guys did a good job to contain the fire to Fibonacci’s,” he says, adding most of the damage was done in the roastery.
The office units towards the back of the building suffered the most damage upstairs, Noble notes, adding fire investigators continue to seek the cause.
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