Dozens of people are now homeless after a large fire engulfed the Legacy condos at 770 Rutland Road North, late Tuesday afternoon.
Crews were called out around 4:30 p.m. and heavy black smoke could be seen billowing into the air across from Rutland Middle School, as crowds began to form on the sidewalks around the building.
It is still unclear how the fire began, but various reports point to a propane tank exploding at some point during the early stages of the blaze, which accelerated the flames. Residents and witnesses say the fire started on a second or third floor unit, situated on the inside corner of the ‘L’ shaped building.
The flames spread to units above, below and to each side before heading to the roof. At this point the blaze spread in all directions, completely destroying the roof of the building and with it many of the units on the top floor.
Residents arriving home found the road closed off to traffic as they stood around in shock and disbelief or huddled in small groups. Some of those who were home at the time were able to save whatever they could carry, which was not much; a few were holding small pets and little else.
Val Johnson was one of the first people to see the flames and says she ran around the building knocking on doors and windows to warn the tenants.
“It was so quick,” she says, while noting the intense heat radiating from the flames as she ran around the building.
“And it was fast, super fast. I was screaming loud, and the people didn’t seem to know what was going on at first. But if you looked straight up you could see the smoke coming over the building.”
It was all hands on deck as the Kelowna Fire Department maxed out their resources to attack the blaze that at first glance appeared to be completely out of control.
“We’ve got four engines and two ladder trucks out here,” says Deputy Fire Chief Lou Wilde.
“That takes the daily compliment out of the career stations and then we’ve got our reserve rig backfilled too.”
There are 52 units in the building and at one point the residents of 19 of them had not been accounted for, but as the flames began to die down, fire crews began to search the building and concentrated on those unknown residences.
City busses were brought in to transfer residents to the Salvation Army on Sutherland Avenue, where a staging area for Emergency Social Services has been set up.
Dr. Oz and his team are most than happy to assist with any pets that have been injured or displaced by this tragic fire.
Please contact Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital at 250-769-9109.
-- Ragnar Haagen