An iconic 118-year-old boat was destroyed by a fire overnight

118 years of history gone

UPDATE: 1:35 p.m.

The Orchard City II was built in 1903 and served the Kelowna sawmill faithfully for decades. After spending many years on the bottom of Okanagan Lake at one point in its storied life, the tugboat was refurbished in the 1980s, and became an iconic roadside marker for the Holiday Park RV and Condo Resort. But after 118 years, the vessel burned to the ground in the early morning hours of Thursday.

Fire crews from the Kelowna and Lake Country fire departments rushed to the fire north of Duck Lake at about 1:30 a.m. to find the large boat fully engulfed in flame.

“There were power lines fairly close by so our main objective at that time was to just knock it down and get it so it wasn't impacting any infrastructure,” said Brent Penner, deputy fire chief with the Lake Country Fire Department.

“That material is dry, obviously the boat's been there for a long time.”

Firefighters spent all morning knocking down the fire and dousing hot spots, leaving nothing but charred rubble.

Local historian Charley Adam has lived all of his 88 years in the Okanagan and knows a thing or two about the Orchard City II.

“After it was retired from the Kelowna sawmill, it went to a place that belonged to a Mr. Clarence who lived out towards Squally Point,” Adam said.

“It was hauled up on shore on Mr. Clarence's beach and a windstorm came up and it washed the boat off the beach and into deeper water [in the late 1940s]. I remember coming down a trail to Mr. Clarence's place and I could see the tugboat under the water."

Photos provided by the Lake Country Museum show the Orchard City II half submerged in Okanagan Lake, before it was relocated to its final resting place on the side of Highway 97.

“When it went to the Holiday Park they hauled it up from the bottom of the lake and took off the superstructure and made an imitation sailboat out of it," Adam said.

Dan Sigal, the current owner of Holiday Park, said his father moved the boat from Okanagan Lake to the side of the highway around 1983 when the resort was under development, and it acted as a sales office.

“Once the resort got more established, it became more advantageous just to make that a signage and retain it as sort of a resort landmark. It looks like it became almost a community landmark,” Sigal said.

He said when he and his wife were woken by a phone call at 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning, his first thought was that it was some kind of April's Fool joke. But he quickly realized that unfortunately, the fire was all too real.

Sigal said the loss of the iconic boat is very sad, but he's choosing to think positively, noting that at least no one was hurt in the blaze. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

UPDATE: 6:40 a.m.

A Central Okanagan landmark was destroyed by fire overnight.

Platoon Capt. Shayne Kiehlbauch with the Kelowna Fire Department says 911 calls came in about 1:30 a.m., reporting the iconic boat at the entrance to Holiday Park RV and Condo Resort was ablaze.

Lake Country Fire Department was first on scene and reported the boat was fully involved in fire.

"Crews deployed hose lines to suppress the fire," says Kiehlbauch. "There were no hydrants in the area, so water had to be shuttled to the scene with water tenders."

The boat collapsed during the fire, so an excavator was brought in to help with extinguishing the fire.

"At this time, we do not have a cause for the fire and it is under investigation," Kiehlbauch says.

Lake Country responded with an engine, pumper, tender, ladder and two command vehicles. Kelowna Fire Department sent one engine, a tender and command vehicle with seven members.

ORIGINAL: 6:25 a.m.

A Central Okanagan landmark went up in flames overnight.

The iconic boat at the entrance to Holiday Park RV and Condo Resort in the northern reaches of Kelowna was ablaze late Wednesday night.

Lake Country and Kelowna fire crews battled the flames on the side of Highway 97 at Commonwealth Road.

Lake Country Fire Chief Steve Windsor says the large blue and white wooden boat used as the entrance sign to the resort caught fire late Wednesday.

The fire was attended by three fire department units from Lake Country and two from Kelowna.

Residents and passers by watched the flames about 2 a.m.

"I was driving into Lake Country from Kelowna around 2 a.m. on Highway 97, and the big boat ... was on fire," says Castanet reader Todd Jespersen.

"It is gone now, burned down."

There is no word yet on the cause of the fire.

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