No sign of wo­man af­ter fire

The Daily Courier - - OKANAGAN - By JAMES MILLER

Non­a­ge­nar­ian be­lieved to have per­ished in rag­ing house fire

Fire crews were un­able to lo­cate the re­mains of a 94-year-old wo­man be­lieved to have per­ished in Wed­nes­day’s house fire at 3923 Lake­side Dr. in Pen­tic­ton.

“We are now trans­fer­ring the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to the RCMP and it looks like this is go­ing to be­come a miss­ing per­son’s file,” Pen­tic­ton fire Chief Larry Watkin­son said Thurs­day evening af­ter a day of search­ing.

“RCMP, BC Coro­ners and the Pen­tic­ton Fire Depart­ment col­lab­o­ra­tively worked to­wards find­ing the vic­tim by us­ing a small piece of equip­ment to take apart the heav­ily dam­aged struc­ture re­mains,” he said.

“It’s hard to be­lieve that we haven’t been able to find any­thing. We’ve got 12 sets of eyes on it. We were work­ing with heavy pieces of equip­ment and pluck­ing the thing apart down to the foun­da­tion and noth­ing. It’s frus­trat­ing for ev­ery­one be­cause we all want clo­sure.”

Fire broke out at the home around 6:15 p.m. on Wed­nes­day. Within a mat­ter of min­utes, the house was fully in­volved with flames.

“It went up in lit­er­ally 30 sec­onds,” said neighbour John Vas­si­laki, who watched in hor­ror with oth­ers from sev­eral doors down. “I could not be­lieve how quickly the house went down.”

Pen­tic­ton’s fire depart­ment was aware of the house due to pre­vi­ous in­spec­tions. The wo­man, whom the Her­ald has cho­sen not to iden­tify, lived for many years in the house, which was cited for hoard­ing and un­sightly con­di­tions. The house was built with older construction and there was a lot of open tim­ber.

As a re­sult of a strong south wind and a large cedar tree that was en­gulfed in flames, the fire pushed its way to the neighbouring home at 3919 Lake­side Dr., lo­cated di­rectly be­side Skaha Ma­rina.

The home­own­ers at 3919 Lake­side Dr. are Al and Dorothy Mans­field, who own the White Spot res­tau­rant in Pen­tic­ton, which burned to the ground in an early morn­ing fire in June 2011. (The res­tau­rant was later re­built and re­opened.) The orig­i­nal owner, who de­signed and lived in the house for many years, was for­mer mayor Mike Pearce.

“We just got out with the clothes on our back,” Al said. “It’s very dev­as­tat­ing for us but the phone has been ring­ing off the hook. Peo­ple in Pen­tic­ton have been won­der­ful. At least 15 peo­ple have in­vited us to stay with them.

“I was run­ning around that night and a man I didn’t know — he worked for Rick­Lyn Renos — came along and gave me his coat. He even of­fered us a place to stay for the evening.”

Al said both he and his wife have some smoke in their lungs and he pulled a ham­string on the night of the fire.

The cou­ple’s house­keeper was not home at the time but has suf­fered sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial hard­ship. Fire­fight­ers were able to re­cover her pass­port, but noth­ing else.

A house lo­cated to the south of the pri­mary res­i­dence ex­pe­ri­enced only mi­nor dam­age, which in­cluded sev­eral bro­ken win­dows and paint blis­ter­ing. The own­ers of the third house were not home at the time.

Fire crews re­mained on the scene overnight.

In to­tal, 32 fire­fight­ers and three of­fi­cers from the Pen­tic­ton Fire Depart­ment bat­tled the blaze us­ing five pieces of equip­ment. Watkin­son said the re­sponse time was quick and fire­fight­ers were able to pre­vent the fire from spread­ing up a bank to the Wiltse area that’s above Lake­side Drive.

The cause of the fire re­mains un­de­ter­mined, but it is not con­sid­ered sus­pi­cious.

JOE FRIES/Pen­tic­ton Her­ald

With the use of heavy ma­chin­ery, Pen­tic­ton fire­fight­ers searched end­lessly on Thurs­day for the re­mains of a 94-year-old wo­man who was be­lieved to have died in Wed­nes­day’s house fire on Lake­side Road. Her file is now con­sid­ered a “miss­ing per­son’s file.”

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