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Fire sparked inside family restaurant

An electrical fire Sunday has closed Rosalinda
An electrical fire Sunday has closed Rosalinda's Filipino Kitchen in downtown Vernon.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith/Morning Star

A family restaurant has been forced to close its doors temporarily after a fire was sparked inside the premises Sunday.

Approximately 35 people were seated for lunch inside Rosalinda’s Filipino Kitchen Sunday when smoke and flames erupted around an electrical panel shortly before 1 p.m.

“I was behind the counter and I heard the loud pops and banging noise,” said Todd Smelser, who owns the 33rd Street restaurant with his wife Rosalinda.

Todd ran downstairs and pulled the breakers and then managed to put the fire out with a fire extinguisher before firefighters arrived.

“It was a little scary,” said Klaus Linemayr, who was sitting down to lunch with his son when the fire broke out.

Now a charred wall sits behind the counter of the dark and empty restaurant that has been forced to turn customers away.

“What we find quite scary is how long we will be closed,” said Todd, who anticipates it could be two weeks to a month before they can re-open following repairs.

The restaurant, which Todd and Rosalinda have spent their life savings on, was just starting to pick up with business.

“It’s really hard because we were just starting to see the growth,” said Todd of their kitchen which opened just over a year ago.

“We hope our customers will come back.”

The nine employees at the downtown Vernon restaurant, which include Rosalinda and three of their daughters, are also out of work for now.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do,” said Rosalinda, who is normally baking and cooking in the kitchen from 3 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The kitchen does have insurance and private causation investigators are following up with the cause.

Vernon Fire Rescue performed its investigation Monday, which confirmed that an electrical short initiated the fire, and the short appears to have occurred at the base of the smart meter.

“It was pretty much contained to where the meters are,” said deputy chief Lawrie Skolrood.

BC Hydro is also looking into the incident and says that if a smart meter is responsible for damage it will take full responsibility and cover the cost of the repairs.

“But it is important to note that there is no indication that the incident originated with the meter,” said Dag Sharman, BC Hydro community relations manager, Thompson/Okanagan/Columbia regions.

When a meter is installed, it is plugged into a base – which Sharman explains is the owner’s property, and responsibility.

Electrical fires are generally started from shorts of internal wiring or an overload of the internal circuitry, adds Sharman.

“The risk of a smart meter exchange causing electrical problems is extremely low because the meter doesn’t carry a charge,” he said.

“There’s been no evidence that a smart meter has been the cause of a fire anywhere in the province.”

BC Hydro has exchanged 1.7 million meters to date across B.C., and Sharman explains that the exchanges are actually making situations safer.

With meter installers going home-to-home, it provides an opportunity to identify and address any safety issues at the meter base.

In fact more than 2,000 repairs of unsafe meter socket conditions have been repaired by electricians at no cost to the homeowner.

Rosalinda’s has two meters, which were exchanged in August and October.

While some homeowners and businesses are preventing Hydro from exchanging meters, Todd says he had no issue with the meters being installed.

“I trust that it’s safe because they know what they’re doing.”

 

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