Flames and fright

Dustin Godfrey

UPDATE: 10:55 a.m.

Residents who fled for their lives from a townhome complex in Penticton Thursday night are still shaken up and being cared for, according to Fire Chief Larry Watkinson.

He said they are with the emergency support team and will be under their care for 72 hours.

The fire department has also involved their insurance companies who will be taking over responsibility for the tenants.

"Everybody got out safely," he said. "There were some pets involved, but we don't know the full details there."

People who were evacuated from an adjacent building, will be allowed to go back home today.

Fire crews aggressively attacked the fire at Cascade Gardens for about four hours on Thursday night.

Watkinson said it was very challenging for crews, because it was a four-plex and it was like fighting four separate house fires.

Locals described it as a night filled with black smoke, emergency vehicles and fear.

"There was a lot of smoke and chaos and fire trucks on scene," said one person, who did not want to be named. "It was just very scary because we were worried the fire would spread and some people may have lost everything."

Residents said the fire broke out in one of the units around 8 p.m. and then spread to the others, with RCMP arriving on scene first, followed by members of the fire department who quickly went to work.

As for the cause, Watkinson confirmed Friday that it was an arson fire, with it now being an RCMP criminal investigation.

–with files from Deborah Pfeiffer

UPDATE: 1:55 A.M.

Penticton Fire Department chief Larry Watkinson has confirmed that the fire is an arson, and that someone is in custody related to the incident.

Four more units in an adjacent building in the complex have also been evacuated, for fear of exposure, after the fire spread and gutted all four units of the building.

Watkinson said the department responded to the call at 8:06 p.m., but that at 12:30 a.m., crews had to cease their efforts inside the building.

He said the floors were "getting spongy," and that it had become too unsafe for crews to work inside, opting to attempt to fight the fire from outside.

Efforts, now, are to keep the fire from spreading into the roof, which Watkinson said could cause the building to collapse.

Firefighters thought they had the blaze subdued a couple of times, but Watkinson said it spread through floors and walls and continued to burn in the structure.

In all, eight units have been evacuated: four in the affected building and four in the one adjacent.

Police on scene wouldn't comment on the investigation into the arson.

Watkinson said he would have more information during the day on Friday.

UPDATE: 10:20 P.M.

Penticton Avenue has been blocked off in both directions by the Cascade Gardens townhomes.

Officials say the fire appeared to have started in the basement, but had no further indication as to where, exactly, it first ignited.

Witnesses said the fire quickly shot up to the top floor of the unit, and had relit at least once on the top floor.

Officials said crews were investigating attached units, but have not been able to confirm whether or not the fire had spread beyond the main unit or not, nor the degree to which smoke damage may have occurred in other units.

The damage to the unit in which the fire started is also uncertain at this point.

Witnesses said yelling and screaming were heard prior to the fire.

Police, ambulance and fire crews were present.

Castanet will continue to update as information becomes available.


A large fire has reportedly started at the Cascade Gardens townhouse complex in Penticton.

The fire, which witnesses say has spread to multiple units on the 1400 block of Penticton Avenue, is believed to have begun shortly before 8 p.m.

A Castanet reporter is headed to the scene, and updates will be posted as they become available.

– With files from Nich Johansen

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