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Popular Kelowna hotel damaged in suspicious fire

One fire fighter suffered burns, a section of a popular Kelowna hotel was scorched and its guests displaced, while dozens of airline passengers were thrown off schedule due to a suspicious Saturday morning blaze.

The chaos causing fire was called into 911 at 1:21 a.m. from the Coast Capri Hotel. Upon arrival, the Kelowna Fire Department's crews found heavy smoke showing from the top floors of the building.

"Initial attack crews also reported heavy smoke in the hallways from the third floor up to the seventh floor and located fire in the sixth floor stairwell and on the seventh floor with extension into an eighth floor mezzanine," said Thomas Doherty, deputy fire chief.

"Firefighters worked quickly and diligently to locate and contain the fires on the sixth, seventh and eighth floors of the hotel as well as ensuring all guests were evacuated from the entire hotel with the assistance of RCMP."

Doherty said hotel staff and guests were also instrumental in the safe evacuation by following the fire safety plan and emergency evacuation plans in place, although not all exited unscathed.

"One fire fighter was taken to Kelowna General Hospital for treatment of second degree burns to the hands and has since been released, no other injuries were reported," he said.

"In all, 358 guests were evacuated from the hotel; many of those will be permitted back into their rooms in the unaffected areas of the hotel this morning. Those guests staying in the affected area of the hotel will be displaced and arrangements have been made for accommodations in nearby hotels. Emergency Support Service and Fire Fighters remain on scene assisting the affected guest with retrieving their belongings and essentials from the affected rooms."

Among the evacuated guests who had to mill around outside while fire fighters went to work were several WestJet pilots and staff.

The domino effect of their front row seat to fire meant that they were deemed unfit to fly, having fallen short of the requisite amount of sleep. By 7 a.m. Saturday,  several scheduled trips had been cancelled, and the lobby of the airport teemed with travellers who were angrily being re-routed. Airport representatives have said all passengers were given alternate flights and the bottleneck of stranded travellers was cleared by day's end.

Kelowna RCMP General Investigation Section, Kelowna Fire Department and Capri Hotel management and staff worked together in the initial investigation of the fire and confirmed July 1 that there were two separate points of origin for this fire.

"One fire was on the sixth floor exit stairwell landing and the other was in a seventh floor storage room which extended up into the eighth level," said Doherty.

"This fire has been confirmed as suspicious and the investigation has been turned over to the RCMP. Damage estimate for this fire has yet to be determined."

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Kelowna RCMP at 250-762-3300, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at www.crimestoppers.net to report.

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