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Investigation continues into Kelowna fire; neighbour says building was a ‘tinderbox’ – Okanagan

A fire that sent a massive plume of black smoke into the Central Okanagan sky remained under investigation on Tuesday.

The fire happened Monday in Kelowna’s Lower Mission neighbourhood, as an old farm building on Casorso Road went up in flames around noon.

Fire investigators were back on Tuesday, trying to determine the fire’s cause. The building had been repurposed, and featured plenty of debris.

The building was supposedly vacant for some time, though police told Global News that they’re trying to confirm if squatters were on residence, which neighbours believed to be the case.

At least two people were inside the building when it caught fire. One was a man who escaped with his dog by jumping from a second-storey window. The other was a woman who also escaped the blaze, but not before suffering significant injuries.

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Click to play video: 'One person injured in large Kelowna blaze'

One person injured in large Kelowna blaze

“At the time, we didn’t know that it was an occupied residence, or a building that was occupied,” said fire chief Larry Watkinson.

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“We had reports from the owner confirming that no one was residing at that occupancy.”

One neighbour said the fire didn’t come as a surprise. In fact, he said he had city bylaw two weeks prior to the blaze, with officers visiting the barn one week before it burned down.

“We see transients around the building all the time,” said Bob Anderson, who owns the adjacent Kelowna Driving Range.

His business sustained from property damage from the fire, and while Anderson says he feels fortunate to have escaped major damage, he says the fire was just a matter of time, as he called the building “a tinderbox.”

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“There was more and more old tires being piled up by the corner of the building,” said Anderson, noting “the whole property has just been run down.

“It’s an old wood structure that’s been abandoned for quite a while. And it just a tinderbox and we knew that something was going to happen eventually.”

Click to play video: 'Concerns grow for unhoused population amid heat'

Concerns grow for unhoused population amid heat

The City of Kelowna confirmed that bylaw officers were on site on Canada Day.

“We didn’t think that seven days later our worst fear would happen,” said Anderson. “But clearly, our concerns were genuine.”

Anderson is now calling on the city to check out other abandoned buildings to reduce the chance that other properties could be damaged by fire.

“This can happen anywhere. And as we have more and more transients getting into them, I think the city needs to take a look at these old buildings,” said Anderson.

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“We got very lucky with this one.”

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