West Kelowna  

Shelter up in flames

Alanna Kelly

A bush fire was sparked in a forested area where a homeless couple was living, early Tuesday morning.

Video from the fire shows large flames in a forested area near Boucherie Road and Horizon Drive at 5:20 a.m. in West Kelowna.

The couple, who did not want to be identified, said they lost everything and wouldn't wish their situation on anyone.

“I woke up to my sleeping bag on fire, it quickly took over everything. Within less than a minute, the whole thing was up in flames,” the man said.

He struggled to get out of the structure and suffered first-degree burns.

Cpl. Jesse O'Donaghey of the Kelowna RCMP says the fire was sparked by a propane heater.

“It did spread into the bush a little bit,” said West Kelowna fire chief Jason Brolund.

The couple have been homeless for a few years and are struggling to find somewhere to live. They said they are worried about their things being stolen at shelters so they choose to live beside the highway.

“I’ve been on the street for about two and a half years,” he said. “I was a mason … I actually helped build the winery up the road.”

He was able to salvage an important possession after the fire.

“A container that has a ring my mom gave me… I want to propose to my girlfriend,” he said.

Other than the container, they only have the clothing they were wearing and a blanket.

Brolund said they appreciate the vigilance of the public in reporting fires or things that look out of the ordinary.

Just two weeks ago, firefighters in Kelowna responded to a small grass fire at a homeless camp near Dilworth Drive and Enterprise Way.

It was determined to have been sparked by cooking activities at a homeless camp, believed to have been started by transients. 

“We encourage anyone who is doing any kind of outdoor cooking or burning activities to obviously be very cautious,” said Brolund.

For now the couple is focused on finding somewhere to sleep.

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