2 dead after fire tears through Penticton apartment complex

·2 min read

The bodies of two people have been found in the ruins of a large fire that destroyed part of a three-story apartment complex in Penticton, B.C, and displaced dozens of residents Tuesday morning.

Firefighters arrived just after 4 a.m. to find the 36-unit building at 427 Elm Avenue 'heavily involved,' according to Penticton Fire Chief Larry Watkinson.

"The fire was on the exterior of the building and was lapping up to the third floor and into the apartments through the balconies," Watkinson said.

"It got into the roof structure and tore across the roof."

Heavy winds contributed to the fire's spread, according to Watkinson.

"This apartment complex faces Skaha Lake and the wind was pushing it hard into the building and it carried it into the roof very quickly," he said.

Mike Biden / Penticton Fire Department
Mike Biden / Penticton Fire Department

The fire department is working to account for all of the residents, according to Watkinson.

"A number of properties are not 12 months a year —they are vacation homes. So we are still working through the data of who is missing and who is just away," he said.

After the fire had been extinguished a structural engineer cleared firefighters to begin a search of the apartment complex for anyone remaining in the building. That's when the two bodies were discovered, said Watkinson.

The Penticton RCMP and the BC Coroners Service are investigating.

Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki offered his condolences to the victims' families and neighbours Tuesday afternoon.

"On behalf of city council and all residents of Penticton, I wish to express our deep condolences to the families and neighbours who lost loved ones and friends following this morning's tragic fire on Elm Avenue," he said in statement.

"We join them during this time of grief with our thoughts and support."

Fire crews were able to keep the blaze on one side of a fire wall in the apartment complex, according to Watkinson, who said the building was not completely destroyed.

Nearby hotels had to be temporarily evacuated during the fire, but guests have since been allowed to return.

RCMP say while the cause of the fire is still under investigation, it does not appear to be criminal in nature.