The Penticton Fire Department said they were told Wednesday that an evacuation order for the Three Gables Hotel had been signed.
Fire Chief Wayne Williams said the fire department was advised by the Office of the Fire Commissioner that an order had been signed requiring an evacuation of the Three Gables Hotel due to existing building conditions that might seriously endanger life or property in the event of a fire.
A notice has been provided to the property owner outlining that they have 48 hours to evacuate the hotel residences at 360 Martin Street, After this notice, fire department officials hand-delivered letters and resource information to the residents who were there this afternoon.
"The order from the BC Fire Commissioner to evacuate the hotel residence is directly related to the concern about public safety," said Williams. "Our first priority is the security of the residents, and we are working with several agencies to find housing options for them."
Inspections of the hotel residence over the years have yielded an array of deficiencies including problems with fire separations, or doors, inadequate fire alarm systems and impeded exits.
The biggest concern was the doors, with some units only protected by a piece of plywood.
The property owner has been advised several times in the past to remediate the building deficiencies and make the hotel safe.
With inspection and enforcement efforts unsuccessful, the fire commissioner issued an order to undergo necessary repair of the building that was ignored. With no compliance to date and following significant fire and life safety infractions, the final step was the commissioner signing the order.
Williams said they have worked hard with several agencies to find housing options for what is believed to be around 17 tenants.
The South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society has provided a list of several potential landlords, and Cheers the Church has stepped up.
They require a minimum of 10 people, but they would be able to adapt to the Cold Snap Inn model and make it operational for some of them.
The Kelowna Gospel Mission has also stepped up and said they would provide assistance if required and bus tickets would be made available for transportation.
A contact number has been provided for the tenants to call.
Williams says the residents who were there today understood why this was being done.
"There was no anger," he says. "I think some were relieved."
Before the arrival of fire officials, a tenant named Jamie, who is already on disability and has diabetes on top of that, said he had already started packing up his stuff.
"This is a bad time of year to have to look for a place," he says. "But I have no control over this."
Other residents were worried about their pets. Williams said they are taking extra steps to contact animal control agencies like the SPCA to find out what measures can be put in place so that residents can feel comforted knowing their beloved pets are cared for if necessary.
There have been no actual recent fires at the location, but a call out last Friday to the hotel did reveal damaged smoke detectors and other problems.
RCMP Cpl. Martin Trudeau said the RCMP have also gone out to the location in the past.
Most of the residents there are of limited financial means, and some are dealing with serious health and mental health issues, he said.
Williams stated the building is not slated for demolition at this time, but there would need to be extensive renovations before people could move back in.
The liquor store at the location is excluded from the order.