A Penticton Indian Band firefighter going through some of the rubble left over from an early morning fire that occurred at the Delta Mobile Home Park. Kristi Patton/Western News

Family left with questions after South Okanagan woman dies in fire

A 65-year-old Penticton woman died in Delta Mobile Home Park fire

Millicent Forrest starts to choke up when she thinks about the last time she spoke with her sister, Christine Giles.

“It was a Sunday that she sent me an email and I was going to call her Thursday (Nov. 22), but I was so tired. I said I would call her the following day, of course, that was too late.”

It was early morning on Nov. 23, the same day Forrest was going to call her sister, that a fire occurred at Giles’ residence within the Delta Mobile Home Park, tragically killing her and her two beloved dogs.

Christine Giles was found dead in her residence at the Delta Mobile Home Park, which was destroyed in a fire on Nov. 23.
Submitted photo

“I just never could expect this in a million years,” said Forrest, who hopped on the first flight from her home in New Brunswick to Penticton, once she heard her sister had died.

Related: One person confirmed dead in mobile home park fire

John Yardley, who resides across the street from where the fire took place, said he was stirred awake by the sound of sirens.

“I had no idea it was going until I heard the sirens. I opened my door and could feel the heat right away and I could see 100-foot flames shooting from the fire.”

RCMP confirmed that one adult individual was found deceased inside the trailer. Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said RCMP were requested to assist the Penticton Indian Band Volunteer Fire Department at approximately 5 a.m. on Nov. 16. Upon arrival, he said, they found the mobile home fully engulfed. While firefighters tried to gain access to get control of the fire, they found an adult individual deceased inside. Moskaluk said foul play is not suspected and the RCMP are assisting the BC Coroner Service with their investigation.

Related: Up to 40 people handed eviction notices in Penticton mobile home community

When given an eviction notice, along with all the other residents in October, Giles had nowhere to go. The 65-year-old, who Forrest said didn’t have good health, remained in the park despite her power being cutoff as of Monday.

“She likes being on her own. She was offered to join me in New Brunswick but she hated the winters and didn’t want to do that. She just loved her little place, with her garden and her two dogs. The problem is there was nowhere else to go. She didn’t have a lot of money and when they gave that eviction notice, the vacancy rate was 0.5 per cent,” said Forrest.

From conversations with her sister, she found out a lot of the residents in the park were in the same situation — leaving a few of them in the park, being told they could stay for a few months longer after their eviction.

Yardley also believes there was a a few people still living in the mobile home park. He also heard that the power was cut off earlier in the week.

Related: Time to relocate is running out for mobile home residents

Forrest said from the initial investigations it is a possibility that her sister had her oven going to keep warm, however she is waiting for the coroner report and fire investigation to conclude.

“It’s tough. Right now, I have to accept what they are telling me. There is nothing else I can do — I do not have any peace otherwise,” said Forrest.

Not wanting her sister to die in vain, Forrest said she wants to bring awareness that those living in mobile home parks on First Nation land do not have the same rights as those living in a municipality.

Related: Mobile home tenant rules offer more compensation

“It is the only thing I can do right now to ensure something is learned from this. I don’t think the general public, not just here but in all of Canada, realizes people in this situation do not have many rights — at least not the same as a municipality,” she said. “I want to get this to be common knowledge that people are taking a risk and I may even take this to my MP.”

Forrest said she is holding on to the memory that Giles loved her two dogs and puttering around her garden in the mobile home park she lived at for over 10 years.

“She was an amazing artist, creating what they call reverse painting on glass. It was pretty amazing. She also had a great sense of humour. I love the fact that I have so many emails from her. Emails where she always had some crazy story. I told her she should write a book because she was funny as hell.”

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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