Overnight fire in Kelowna destroys four businesses on Highway 97

A fire beside the new Cora
A fire beside the new Cora's Breakfast and Lunch restaurant at Birch Road and Highway 97 had fire crews hopping all night Monday. Soccer Express, Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza, EcoWater 2000 and Color Me Mine have been destroyed
— image credit: Jennifer Smith

Owners of the businesses affected by the Burtch Plaza fire, which gutted four stores early Monday morning, should know more about where their businesses go from here by Tuesday.

At approximately 1 a.m. Monday morning, the Kelowna Fire Department responded to several 911 calls indicating smoke and flames were coming from Burtch Plaza, the shopping complex just south of Global Fitness on Highway 97 where BCAA and Cora's Breakfast and Lunch are located.

The fire destroyed a sports shop, Soccer Express; pottery business, Color Me Mine; water purification outlet, EcoWater 2000, and Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza.

"We're going to have a strata meeting tomorrow and we should know more by then," said Brad Leitch, owner of Soccer Express, who drove from the Coast Monday morning to assess the situation after receiving a call overnight to say his store was on fire.

Soccer Express is one of three outlets and a distribution centre he owns, and Leitch admitted the details of what occurred were unclear to him when he left for the trip. He said he understood the fire had started in the roof of one of the adjacent businesses and that the firewalls at Cora's Breakfast and Lunch and Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza likely stopped the blaze from spreading.

"The firewalls are usually built to keep the fire in the restaurant, although in this case it looks like it kept it out," he said.

A statement from the fire department released six hours after the fire was reported said fire crews arrived to find heavy smoke coming from the roof above Soccer Express and EcoWater 2000, beside Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza.

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, platoon captain Tim Light gave a radio interview saying the department believed the source of the fire was somewhere in the Canadian 2 for 1 Pizza roof; though it would be difficult to tell what actually sparked the blaze due to the extent of the damage.

"Fire crews started with an offensive interior attack, but were forced to change to a defensive exterior attack when the ceiling of the units collapsed," Light said.

RCMP evacuated one employee from Cora’s restaurant upon arrival, and fire crews then followed by evacuating residents from the nearby Laurentian Heights apartments off Kelglen Crescent.

Two years ago, the same rental apartments burned in a similar middle-of-the-night blaze and close to 100 people lost their homes. It remains one of the uglier fire incidents in the city's recent history as very few had rental insurance and many were operating on modest incomes.

No one was injured in Monday's fire, although several businesses will lose income in the Christmas lead-up. In addition to the four businesses destroyed, places like the Cora's outlet, BCAA and Ten Thousand Villages remain closed.

"We didn't suffer any fire damage, but there is certainly some water and smoke damage," read a statement on the Ten Thousand Villages Facebook page. "We won't know the full extent of damage until we are allowed back in the store and we're not sure when that will be."

The Colour Me Mine Facbook page was apologizing to customers, though the store was among those destroyed and three doors away from the apparent source.

"We can't express how much we appreciate the enormous amount of support from the community at this time," the shop's page stated. "We are so, so sorry to those customers affected by this unfortunate event."

The Kelowna Fire Department deployed four fire engines, a rescue vehicle, a ladder truck, command vehicle and several support vehicles to fight the fire. It took some 44 fire personnel over the course of the night to complete the job.

The property manager for Burtch Plaza said she had not been given information on damages and does not have an estimated re-opening date as yet.

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