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Neighbouring house a write off as police investigate missing persons case in Penticton fire

Police continue to look for the 92 year old resident of a Lakeside Road fire in Penticton last week, after efforts to recover her body from the wreckage failed. Her neighbouring resident, Al Mansfield, says his house was also a total loss as a result of the blaze.
October 19, 2017 - 11:38 AM

PENTICTON - Al Mansfield spent Wednesday afternoon touring his burned out house with insurance adjusters.

Mansfield owns the house next door to Mary Esta, whose house caught fire last Wednesday. The blaze, fanned by strong winds, spread to Mansfield’s house, torching the roof and causing extensive damage to the interior.

Mansfield talked about the blaze and it’s aftermath yesterday, Oct. 18, a week after the fire. Fire and police officials have been stymied in their efforts to find the 92-year-old.

“They’ve been unable to find Mary. She’s listed as a missing person now, and it’s unfortunate, because the family would like some closure,” Mansfield said.

“There’s nothing left of her house, they’ve triple-checked it, all the investigators did a thorough job, I know that, I was out on my dock on Sunday, checked underneath it to make sure she wasn’t in the lake. I checked the breakwater over by the marina and I couldn’t see anything there,” he said.

Esta's house, which Mansfield believes was around 1,800 square feet in size, was located around 150 feet from the lake.

Mansfield estimates the fire had been burning about 10 minutes before he discovered it, around 6 p.m.

He was working at the back of the property and had just come inside for dinner when his wife noticed smoke.

“She wasn’t very able, couldn’t see very well or hear very well," Mansfield said, adding two other neighbours tried to check the house for Esta shortly after the fire started, but couldn’t get in.

“There was so much heat, the average person would not comprehend how much heat would be there. I tried to put it out with a garden hose, ran around back and tripped. I tore my hamstring,” Mansfield says, adding he lasted about five minutes before heat and smoke forced him back.

“There must have been some little propane tanks, because something was going pop, pop, pop when I tried to put it out with the garden hose, and the fire just grew worse and worse,” he said.

By the time the fire department arrived, the house was fully engulfed, with flames igniting a tall tree in the backyard. Sparks and embers flew off the tree, igniting Mansfield’s roof.

Firefighters battled the blaze for several hours, and spent several days sifting through the rubble to find a body.

"I talked to fire officials, who were adamant they were going to stay until a body was found. There are certain parts of the body that are resistant to fire - hip bones, teeth. They brought in a dog, but couldn’t find anything, which just adds to the mystery,” he said.

Mansfield said his house was also totalled in the blaze. He’s insured and feels he’ll be OK.

“We were undergoing a renovation at the time, which wasn’t insured,” he said, adding he and his wife are looking for furnished accommodations for around a year and a half.

“It’s a total write off. It’ll stand as it is for about a month, until the investigation is complete, and it’ll come down, and we’ll have to start all over,” he said.

Mansfield says a fundraiser is taking place this Sunday, Oct. 22, at the White Spot Restaurant, which he owns, with 20 per cent of gross sales going to Mansfield’s caregiver, who lost some personal possessions in the fire.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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