UPDATE: 9:54 a.m. July 17, 2013
KELOWNA - The RCMP says members of the Arson Investigation Team are working in cooperation with the Kelowna Fire Department at the scene of last night's fire in Rutland to determine the possible cause of the blaze.
"An update, concerning the results of the scene examination and a determination, will be forthcoming," RCMP Const. Steve Holmes stated.
Brown smoke was still rising at 778 Rutland Road this morning and could be seen around the city as firecrews continued to douse hot spots to keep the fire from flaring again.
Original story posted at 5:06 p.m. July 16, 2013
KELOWNA - By 6:30 this evening, firefighters were still inside the smouldering Legacy apartment building at 770 Rutland Road doing a secondary search of all the units to ensure there was no one remaining, while other crews continued to hose down the hot spots.
No one was found inside the building during the preliminary search and no one has been sent to the hospital.
Fire chief Jeff Carlisle says they responded to the fire at around 4:30 this afternoon and shortly after, upgraded their response.
“We pulled in the normal third alarm configuration,” he says, calling about 70 firefighters to the scene with four fire engines, a ladder vehicle, rescue unit and ambulances. Carlisle says their ability to respond was somewhat hampered by the amount of traffic congestion and bystanders gathered at the scene.
“The whole roof is gone,” Carlisle says, comparing the severity of today's fire to the 2011 fire that destroyed a Laurentian Heights apartment building.
The cause of the fire is still to be determined but it originated inside the corner of the L-shaped building and spread from there.
Numerous residents reported hearing the sound of a propane tank explode, and another resident claims to have seen a propane tank shoot past her window. Just last Saturday a fire ignited by a cigarette left residents at the Bristol apartment building in Rutland temporarily homeless.
Carlisle says it is often with the case these fires start on the balconies of buildings.
“People lose everything... it's a very sad situation,” he says.
Deputy Fire Chief Lou Wilde says they summoned crews from the Mission, Rutland, Enterprise and Water Street fire stations and all of their on-call staff to attend both the scene and to protect the rest of the city during the emergency.
“And a whole bunch of police officers helping us out,” Wilde says.
One ambulance was set up to provide medical assistance for firefighters as they took turns going into the building, taking their blood pressure and passing them bottles of water.
Building resident Andrew Pulsipher says at first he wasn't sure the alarm sounding was a cause for concern. But when he saw a flaming piece of wood land outside his ground floor suite he knew it was time to get out and grabbed his dog. He says there was already a large crowd outside the building when the fire department arrived.
"It surprisingly took them longer than I thought it would," he says, since the department is just down the street from the building. His wife says she was driving home from work at the time and her phone died.
"I kept realizing the fire was getting closer and closer to where our house was," she says.
Charity Kocevar lives in an adjacent apartment building and received phone calls from friends telling her to get out the building. But when she emerged she saw the smoke and flames were instead at the Legacy building. She noticed the residents crowded outside and provided those with pets a spare kennel and bowls of water.
Deputy Fire Chief Jason Brolund says residents at the Legacy building are a mix of renters and owners and some of them will likely have content insurance.
There will be a meeting tomorrow at 6 p.m. at the Salvation Army Church on Sutherland Avenue for the building's residents. Earlier this evening residents from a total of 19 units had yet to register with emergency social services.
-- Last edited at 9:50 p.m.
Locations of recent fires in the Rutland area.