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Arson suspected in Westbank Lions Hall fire
Sunday's fire that caused significant damage to Westbank Lions Community Centre was likely started on purpose.
According to Const. Kris Clark, the fire began to burn from the outside of the community hall.
"The origin of the fire was determined to be at the front exterior of the building—it's believe to be intentionally set," said Clark.
Clark said there are currently no suspects; however, a number of people who saw the fire in its early stages around 8:30 a.m. Sunday have come forward.
"Anybody who saw anything within the preceding hours that day who has yet to speak with police is asked to call the West Kelowna RCMP at 250-768-2880."
According to West Kelowna fire chief Wayne Schnitzler, the 23 firefighters who responded were able to save much of the rear of the heritage building. Whether it will be renovated or rebuilt is yet to be determined.
The community centre was originally built in the late 1920s, with an addition added in the early 1980s.
"That's where our community meets more than anywhere else," said West Kelowna Mayor Doug Findlater.
Several user groups have been impacted by the blaze.
The Okanagan Boys and Girls Clubs' Westside Youth Centre, located in the building's lower level, will be closed for the immediate future.
The centre provides drop-in recreation, meals and snacks, reconnect counselling and employment services.
"Westside Youth Centre staff is committed to connecting with youth, and ensuring their basic needs are being met during this challenging time," read a statement put out by the youth centre.
"Staff will be available to meet youth and provide a meal outside the youth centre in the United Church parking lot daily from 3 to 6 p.m. For more information, contact 250-870-1473."
The Okanagan Boys and Girls Club staff are working with district staff to find a temporary space where services can continue to be provided to Westside youth.
Members of the public who wish to help out can call youth centre director Kristy Butterworth at 250-870-1473.
The hall is also home to the Westside Storefront school. Students who were scheduled to attend that school are now asked to report to Central School at 1825 Richter Street in Kelowna, or call the school at 250-870-5120 to make alternate arrangements.
The Canadian Red Cross Health Equipment Loan depot, also located within the community centre, has temporarily suspended its operations due to the fire.
Clients looking to pick up or drop off equipment can do so at the following nearby Red Cross locations:
- Kelowna HELP depot, 124 Adams Rd., Monday to Friday (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), 250-765-3465
- Summerland HELP depot, 9534 Wharton, Monday, Wednesday and Friday (1 p.m. to 3 p.m.), 250-494-0818
- Penticton HELP depot, 104A-575 Main Street, Monday, Wednesday and Friday (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), 250-493-7533.