It appears a fire that destroyed four or five units in a condominium at Big White on Wednesday was caused by workers performing renovations on the building, including using a technique known as torch on roofing.
Big White Fire Chief Jamie Svendsen says his department is still investigating but early signs point to the roofing work as the place where the fire began at the Monashee Inn, which is located next to the Big White Fire Department.
It’s the same technique that was pin-pointed as the cause of the fire that destroyed an under-construction condo on Truswell Road in Kelowna earlier this summer.
“People were working on the roof and they actually yelled over to the firehall,” said Svendsen of the blaze which began yesterday afternoon. “We had some challenges. It was running really hard in the attic. We had a roof collapse so the safety of our firefighters was top priority.”
Fire crews from Big White, Joe Rich and Kelowna worked into the night battling the blaze and finally had it under control late in the evening as they continued to work the fire and put out hot spots, said the chief.
Svendsen says his preliminary findings point to the torch on roofing technique as the cause and the fire department is continuing an investigation.
He said the building, which has 33 units, was mostly vacant at the time, with only a few units having renters inside.
Svendsen says no one was injured in the fire and he credited both the Joe Rich Fire Department and Kelowna’s department for helping douse the fire.
“With our mutual aid agreement with Joe Rich and the help Kelowna gave us….it was awesome team-work that saved that building.”
The Monashee Inn was under a full renovation at the time of the fire with new decks and windows going in, said Svendsen, who said that it appears four or five units are completely destroyed while several others suffered smoke and water damage.
Torch on roofing is a technique where a torch is used to melt asphalt material directly onto the roof. This creates a waterproof barrier. It is often used on flat roofs where snow or rain water can collect and sit or long periods.
Meanwhile, the Big White Department is now looking into purchasing a ladder truck to deal with any other fires due to the number of three and four storey complexes at the resort, according to Big White’s Michael Ballingall.