The site of the massive fire in Kelowna Saturday that saw a six-story condominium building under construction collapse (foreground) and another building in the same development on Truswell Road badly burned (rear). A third building, a residential motel nearby, was also badly damaged.—Image credit: Warren Henderson/Capital News

Work of Kelowna firefighters praised

Four firefighters narrowly escaped a burning building before it collapsed Saturday.

The work of Kelowna firefighters is being hailed in light of a massive blaze Saturday that destroyed a condominium building under construction in city’s Mission area.

The fire caused the collapse of the six-storey unoccupied building at the Water’s Edge development on Truswell Road, and tore through the upper floors floors of the adjacent occupied building in the development.

The fire is believed to have started on the roof of the building where work was being done. A workman was reportedly taken to hospital with burns following his attempt to extinguish the flames.

All residents of the occupied second building in the development alongside Mission Creek were quickly evacuated when the fire first broke out next door around noon on Saturday. No injuries were reported among the residents but many have been left homeless.

In addition, a number of units in the nearby Walnut Grove residential motel were also destroyed, according to firefighters on the scene.

An estimated 176 people were evacuated as a result of the fire, including residents of nine nearby houses.

Three firefighters, however, were sent to hospital as a result of the huge blaze, two with minor injuries and one with more serious burns to his hands and legs.

Firefighter Chris Zimmermann is being credited with saving the lives of three of his fellow firefighters, all of whom narrowly escaped the burning building prior to it collapsing.

The firefighters were trapped on a balcony high up when Zimmermann brought them down to safety.

The son of well-known former Kelowna fire chief Gerry Zimmerman, he was hailed as a hero Monday afternoon at Kelowna city council for his work in the rescue.

“He put himself between his men and the fire,” said Coun. Mohini Singh, who said she talked to Chris Zimmermann in the hospital where he is recovering.

She said she thanked him for his bravery and he replied he was just doing his job.

At the scene Saturday, incident commander deputy fire chief Lou Wilde summered up the relief he felt at getting his men off the burning building in time saying “We got lucky today.”

“It’s not something I ever want to go through again,” he added.

Firefighters Mitch Hanes, Troy Manchur, John Wright and Zimmermann, despite his burned hands, were able to race to safety down a fire department ladder.

Current Kelowna fire chief Travis Whiting said a full investigation will be done into the blaze.

One of the questions that will be addressed, he said, is a concern many of the displaced Water’s Edge and Walnut Grove residents raised during the fire that they felt was the inability of fire trucks to get down a laneway between the two buildings during the early stages of the fire.

While Whiting said he could not comment directly on that as he was at another area of the fire early on, he said there could be a number of reasons a fire truck would not be sent in between two buildings during a fire. One of them could be the fear a building collapse. And that is what happened Saturday.

At the scene, Wilde said the heavy smoke and the collapse were reasons why the fire trucks did not use the laneway.

Ryan Smith of the city’s planning department said a variance for the setback of the development’s parkade was granted in 2015 when the development was approved. But,he added, that did not result in a laneway too thin to accommodate firetrucks.

He said the fire department would not have signed off on the development had that been the case. He said the setback variance was for the parkade, not the buildings.

Just Posted

Kelowna entrepreneur nominated for award

Kristy Carruthers has been announced as a finalist for the Stevie Awards

Okanagan clinical team to research Alzheimer’s Disease drug

Disease-modifying medication study seeks participants

Children’s book based on the Okanagan is released

The book, based on Wild Horse Canyon will be released Oct. 20 after a long wait

Beaverton author takes new approach to Canadian history

Alex Huntley will be presenting his book in Lake Country, Oct. 27

Kelowna talent goes to international stage

Julia Chambers is now attending Tisch at New York University

Fashion Fridays: You can never have enough shoes

Kim XO, lets you know the best online shopping tips during Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Watch it again: Kelowna mayoral candidates square off

Missing the LIVE Kelowna mayoral debate watch now

Going legal: Meet Red Beard, your bong maker

Patrick Vrolyk is an Okanagan-based glassblower who specializes in handmade pipes and bongs

Vancouver Island homeowners buy more earthquake insurance than the rest of B.C.

Insurance Bureau of Canada says that’s because the perception of risk is greater on the Island

Man shot to death while using Lower Mainland ATM

Police believe incident on Thursday night to be targeted

Jets score 3 late goals to beat Canucks 4-1

Winnipeg ends three-game Vancouver win streak

Okanagan water conference builds connections

Experts gathered to discuss water and fisherie sustainability objectives

Two B.C. cannabis dispensaries raided on legalization day

Port Alberni dispensaries ticketed for “unlawful sale” of cannabis

Canada not sending anyone to Saudi business summit

Sources insist Ottawa never intended to dispatch a delegation this time around

Most Read