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Kelowna: Downtown fire destroys auto body shop
The White Stage Auto Body shop, 1140 Brant Ave., suffered extensive damage after a fire broke out inside the shop early this morning.
The six employees in the business at the time were safely evacuated but some vehicles have been damaged that couldn't be moved outside of the shop in time.
While billowing black smoke could be seen from rising from the shop from across the city, the fire damage was largely contained to the interior of the autobody shop, which has been in business since 1972.
Neighbouring businesses and residents in eight units of an apartment building on Brant Avenue overlooking White Stag were evacuated for precautionary reasons.
Andrea Morgan, a retired resident of the apartment complex, said she heard yelling and the sound of explosions in the immediate aftermath of the fire being ignited.
"We were asked to leave for precautionary reasons… and it was a little disconcerting to learn about the chemicals in the building," Morgan said.
"But I had complete faith in the fire department being able to handle the situation…I feel bad for (owner Frank Vaski) as the business has been here for a long time."
Vaski said all the employees were evacuated and some of the vehicles in the shop at the time were moved from the shop as the fire department arrived. Another employee said at least one semi-truck and a pickup truck undergoing work in the shop couldn't be moved in time and likely suffered serious damage.
"In this line of work, it's just one of those things that can happen," said Vaski, who noted the business does have fire insurance.
Another White Stag employee said it appeared an electrical spark might have initially started a fire that spread around the floor of one of the service bays. While the flames on the floor were initially doused, flames were subsequently ignited on the ceiling which quickly spread, he said.
Six fire trucks from three Kelowna firehalls responded to the scene as did two ambulances while police were redirecting traffic from Gordon Drive north of Clement Avenue near the location of White Stag Auto Body.
No adjacent buildings were damaged by the fire.