Kelowna RCMP are investigating what are being described as two “suspicious” fires at the Coast Capri Hotel early Saturday morning that forced an evacuation of the building.
After dealing with what fire department officials say were two separate fires started in two different locations in the hotel’s tower—one in the sixth-floor stairwell and the other in a seventh-floor storage room that spread up into the eighth “floor”—investigators turned over the case to police.
The only injury reported was to a firefighter who suffered burns to his hands. But hundreds of hotel guests were evacuated with many having to spend the night at other hotels in the city. As a result of the fire, dozens of airline passengers were also thrown off schedule later that day because several Westjet flight crews were staying at the hotel and also had to be evacuated meaning they did not get the prescribed rest required to be able to fly the next day.
“The key was getting everyone out safely,” said hotel general manager Gavin Parry, adding he was very proud of the job his staff did.
“The staff did a fantastic job of getting everyone out.”
He said the hotel’s tower holds 48 of the hotel’s 185 rooms. The rooms in the two wings were not affected by the fire and while the entire hotel was evacuated, many guests were allowed back around 9 a.m. Sunday., said Parry. He said the hotel hosted a wedding Saturday night and that went ahead as planned.
According to the hotel manager, the damage will cost in excess of $100,000 to repair, and much of it was caused by water used to fight the flames, as well as by the smoke. He said the third and fourth floors of the hotel’s tower are expected to re-open later this week and the fifth floor a short time later. The six and seventh floors, where the fires started, will take longer as they sustained the most damage. Monday, the hotel still had large fans running in the lobby, trying to clear the smell of smoke and had ceiling tiles missing to help dry out building. What was described as the eighth floor by firefighters is actually a landing for the elevator shaft and is not public floor.
Parry said Monday, the hotel was open, up and running again.
The chaos-causing fire was called in at 1:21 a.m. Saturday morning. Upon arrival, the Kelowna Fire Department’s crews found heavy smoke billowing from the top floors of the building.
“Initial attack crews also reported heavy smoke in the hallways from the third floor up to the seventh floor and located fire in the sixth floor stairwell and on the seventh floor with extension into an eighth floor mezzanine,” said Thomas Doherty, deputy fire chief.
“Firefighters worked quickly and diligently to locate and contain the fires on the sixth, seventh and eighth floors of the hotel as well as ensuring all guests were evacuated from the entire hotel with the assistance of RCMP.”
Doherty said hotel staff and guests were also instrumental in the safe evacuation by following the fire safety plan and emergency evacuation plans in place, although not all exited unscathed.
“One firefighter was taken to Kelowna General Hospital for treatment of second-degree burns to his hands and has since been released, no other injuries were reported,” he said.
“In all, 358 guests were evacuated from the hotel; many of those will be permitted back into their rooms in the unaffected areas of the hotel this morning. Those guests staying in the affected area of the hotel will be displaced and arrangements have been made for accommodations in nearby hotels. Emergency Support Service and Fire Fighters remain on scene assisting the affected guest with retrieving their belongings and essentials from the affected rooms.”
Among the evacuated guests who had to mill around outside while fire fighters went to work were several WestJet pilots and staff. The domino effect of their front row seat to fire meant that they were deemed unfit to fly, having fallen short of the requisite amount of sleep. By 7 a.m. Saturday, several scheduled flights had been cancelled and the lobby of the airport teemed with travelers who were angry at being re-routed.
Airport representatives have said all passengers were given alternate flights and the bottleneck of stranded travelers was cleared by the end of the day Sunday.
Kelowna RCMP general investigation section officers, Kelowna Fire Department and Capri Hotel management and staff worked together in the initial investigation of the fire and confirmed Sunday that there were two separate points of origin for the fire.
The exact cost of the damage to the hotel has yet to be determined.
Anyone with any information is asked to call the Kelowna RCMP at 250-762-3300, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at www.crimestoppers.net to report.