Fire investigators looking into Monday’s retirement home blaze have concluded it was accidentally sparked.
“It was caused by discarded smoking material into a planter located at the exterior rear of the building adjacent to unit No. 59,” said Thomas Doherty, deputy fire chief.
“An accumulation of combustible material in the immediate area of the fire added to the fuel load which caused the fire to quickly spread throughout the structure.”
The Kelowna Fire Department also said residents of Highlands Retirement Residence would be well served to use caution when discarding smoking materials and to do so in non-combustible receptacles a minimum of one meter away from any combustible material.
The fire broke out early Monday morning, and with a little luck, no residents were injured. A list was checked and all 65 were accounted for by 10:30 a.m., though five people were treated for smoke inhalation.
Some 40 firefighters managed to save the bulk of the building, but the back 18 units were destroyed in the blaze, which was described by the fire department as difficult due to the weather conditions.
“The intense heat … combined with the fast growing fire, created some challenges for firefighters,” said Doherty in a statement released mid-afternoon. “… Firefighters had to be switched out frequently, due to the heat, to ensure crews did not become dehydrated.”
The displaced residents were bused to North Glenmore Elementary School in the immediate aftermath and Glenmore Drive was blocked to all traffic for the morning to give emergency vehicles room to fight the fire then mop up the mess.
By the 2:30 p.m., staff at a 24-hour assisted living facility in downtown Kelowna, Laurier Manor, tweeted the facility has room to offer those displaced by the fire a bed. The facility has three spare rooms and an empty downstairs where beds could be set up to help anyone without a place to stay, staff said.