Fire razes Kelowna family business, leaves heavy cloud of smoke over city

Fire crews are continuing to put out hotspots at a fire that broke out on Totom Road early Wednesday morning.  - Kathy Michaels - Capital News
Fire crews are continuing to put out hotspots at a fire that broke out on Totom Road early Wednesday morning.
— image credit: Kathy Michaels - Capital News

A Kelowna family is scrambling to keep their business afloat in the wake of a fire that incinerated its base of operations.

Keith Donkin of Northern Lite Truck and Campers got word early Wednesday morning that the family's Totom Court plant was on fire.

"The fire department called us," he said, adding that the building was fully engulfed when his family arrived on scene and stayed nearby as the business they started in 1993 burned down.

Although it's unclear what the final damage will amount to as fire crews were still battling hotspots well into Wednesday afternoon, Donkin said it's "significant."

"There was a truck camper, moulds in the fibreglass shop and moulds on the line," he said, noting those are the losses he's sure of, but the equipment and the supplies to make the product are also bound to be gone.

What may keep them and their 25-person staff going despite the setback, however, is the help from some of the business community.

"Everybody has been really great for helping us out, and putting plans in place to continue on with production, so thank-you to them," he said. "Also, thanks to the fire department."

Fire fighters arrived at the fire around 12:30  a.m.

"First arriving firefighters noted heavy smoke coming from the exterior of the building near the building’s west side entrance that was quickly extending into the roof area," said Larry Hollier, the Deputy Fire Chief.

They tentatively entered the building, but quickly retreated.

"Due to the volatile nature of the fire and fuel load within, the fire soon consumed the entire roof of the structure causing a collapse," Hollier said, noting that there were fire fighters inside at the time of the collapse.

Materials being burned off are fibreglass and glues used in camper production, and that raised some questions about environmental safety.

The Ministry of Environment and the City of Kelowna utility department were contacted due to the proximity of Mill Creek.

"Currently our Hazmat team is mitigating any run off from the fire site and working closely with City utilities providing continuing updates to the Ministry of Environment," said Hollier.

The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, and it's unlikely to be known until late in the day.


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