Fire: no sign of woman

Colton Davies

UPDATE 4:25 p.m.

Investigators have found no trace of a 93-year-old woman who lived in a home on Lakeside Rd. that collapsed in an inferno Wednesday night.

Fire Chief Larry Watkinson said Thursday afternoon crews diligently picked apart the fire site, twice, looking for the missing elderly woman’s remains.

“We see no remnants, at this point, of anyone being left in the building during the fire,” he said “The fire investigation is now complete. We will be transferring this into the hands of the RCMP and as I understand, they will be considering this a missing persons file.”

Watkinson said in his opinion, the fire did not have the burn rate to completely destroy human remains, adding the fast collapse of the structure would have likely preserved the individual in some way.

He said the situation feels like a bit of a mystery to the department, adding it is a career-first for him.

“We feel unclosed on this event, we would have liked to have some closure finding the victim. But maybe there is hope here now. We are hoping someone could have more information on this that could report it to the RCMP.”

Watkinson said the elderly woman had family visit at 3 p.m. the same day of the fire, which broke out at 6 p.m. She has mobility, vision and hearing impairments.

UPDATE: 12:25 p.m.

Penticton RCMP confirmed that the person unaccounted for after Wednesday night's house fire is a 94-year-old woman.

"Fire investigators are on scene with the police assisting with the investigation at this time," Cpl. Don Wrigglesworth said in a statement.

During the dramatic fire, a woman was witnessed approaching crews saying "my mother is in there."

Neighbours said the elderly woman was a known hoarder, and there were concerns about a lack of upkeep on the property she lived on. 

A cause still has not been determined for the blaze.

Lakeside Road remains blocked off to traffic in both directions as investigators scour the fire scene. 

An excavator also arrived shortly after 11 a.m. to remove rubble.

ORIGINAL: 9:15 a.m.

A woman in her nineties is still unaccounted for after a fire destroyed her home and the house next door on Lakeside Road in Penticton, Wednesday evening. The road remains closed to traffic.

Penticton Fire Department deputy chief Chris Forster said the cause had not yet been determined for the blaze that broke out at about 6:15 p.m.

Forster said the fire was fully extinguished at about midnight, and fire crews remained on scene until 8 a.m. Thursday.

RCMP officers, a fire investigator and fire chief Larry Watkinson were to continue their investigation today, trying to account for the missing woman.

It is believed the elderly woman was the only person inside the house when the fire began.

The fire spread to a neighbouring house to the north where a husband and wife, who were home, were able to get out safely. 

The couple were also able to go back inside with fire crews some hours later and recover some belongings and prized possessions.

The pair are currently in the care of Emergency Social Services, and one of the residents said their home was insured for fire.

Lakeside Road remains closed in both directions as officials remain at the scene.

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