Rutland senior centre fire damages much more than just the building - InfoNews

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Rutland senior centre fire damages much more than just the building

Rutland Seniors Centre members discuss the fire that ripped through their facilty in Kelowna, July 27, 2018
July 27, 2018 - 1:00 PM

KELOWNA - Outside the Rutland Seniors Centre, Sue Lord could only shake her head as she contemplated the damage caused by an arson fire.

“There’s the bridge club and the bingo and the kids ballet,” she counts off. “There’s the dance, it's up and down but there's pickleball and it's very popular.”

While the president of the Rutland Seniors Centre Society is worried about damage to the society’s headquarters and equipment by the fire just before 11 a.m. July 26, she is much more worried about what it could do to the membership should the centre be closed for any length of time.

“For some of our members, this is all they really have for a social network,” Lord says. “They plan their lives around it."

As she’s talking, a member of the Old Time Fiddlers walks up, also shaking his head and wondering how the group can get at their equipment stored inside — and more importantly, if it has suffered any damage during efforts by firefighters to put out the blaze.

“They probably have a concert this weekend,” Lord says, as the man stalks off trying to find someone who will let him in the building — the Kelowna Fire Department arson investigator, Kelowna RCMP and City of Kelowna employee are all on scene.

Other members come up, some not even aware there’s been a fire, and leave again. One wonders out loud about who would do such a thing to a seniors centre, although there may be an answer.

Even as the arson investigation continues, RCMP have already announced the arrest of three youths, caught on surveillence camera fleeing with others after an early-morning explosion and fire at the rear of the centre on Dodd Road.

“It was a fourteen-year-old, the police told me,” society vice-president Mary Hovde says. “Where were his parents, that’s what I want to know. He should have been home in bed.”

Both women say such a disruption to the society’s services has never been seriously discussed and no contingency plan exists, although they say they can count on the support of other seniors centres in the city.

“We help each other out and our members will be able to get into some of their programs, so that will help,” Lord adds.

Insurance is not an issue — the City of Kelowna owns and maintains the building, Lord says, although the centre is almost certain to lose some equipment to water and smoke damage.

“We’re okay financially, this is really about what it does to our membership if this goes on for any length of time,” Lord adds.

— This story was updated at 3:05 p.m. Monday, July 30, 2018 to correct the date and time of the fire. RCMP originally provided the incorrect information.

To contact a reporter for this story, email John McDonald or call 250-808-0143 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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