Kelowna’s Gospel Mission came within inches of a full-scale crisis Sunday when a fire sparked outside its doors spread rapidly, singeing the outer layer of operations.
“There were a couple of gentleman outside that had set up their shopping carts with a plastic tarp over them,” said James Gleghorn, the mission’s development officer. “They had a candle, and it got knocked over, and that got their carts on fire, then the (Gospel Mission) van went on fire, then the building.”
Firefighters intervened quickly after getting the 2:50 a.m. call , stopping the blaze’s advancement, but the damage could set operations back some.
Although ICBC still has to assess the damage on the van, it looks like a write-off said Gleghorn, noting that the engine and front end are completely burnt.
The storage shed that was damaged is used to keep the mission’s dried goods, which are also now a loss.
To fight the flames, the fire department had to take the roof off the shed, then it rained before they could take out the supplies.
The biggest loss, however, is to future operations.
“We were trying to get a courtyard built this spring,” said Gleghorn, noting that it would have been a safe place for the guys who use their services to hang out, as opposed to Leon Avenue.
“Now, with all this, we’re not sure it will happen.”
Thus far plans for the courtyard were moving along quickly. Drawings had been rendered, they’d applied for a grant and they’d been rallying support around the city for financial aid.
Where that sits remains to be seen, but Gleghorn said that the one thing that’s clear is that the two men who allegedly caused the fire will be held to account for their actions.
“We’ll be pressing charges,” he said, adding that they are known to shelter staff, and little more.
Kelowna’s Gospel Mission is grateful to the quick response of the fire department and police department.
“Their work certainly saved us from further damage or any threat to many men and women who were in the shelter at the time,” he said.