Lawrie Skolrood

Lawrie Skolrood

Grandstand insurance draws debate

How insurance money will be spent is unknown after fire destroyed Kin Race Track’s grandstand.

How insurance money will be spent is unknown after fire destroyed Kin Race Track’s grandstand.

Any insurance money from Wednesday’s blaze will go to the City of Vernon, which owns the 43rd Avenue property, and not the Okanagan Equestrian Society, which uses the site and was responsible for maintaining the grandstand.

“We anticipate it could be further fodder for future legal action but we’re choosing to be optimistic that something can be reached,” said Ed Woolley, society spokesperson.

“We have started negotiations with them and we will see what happens.”

The society has been pursuing legal action against the city and the Regional District of North Okanagan to use the property since a 2010 eviction.

Given the ongoing conflict, Woolley admits some society members are concerned the city will not invest the insurance money in a new grandstand.

City officials are saying little about building insurance.

“Any comment on this would be premature,” said Will Pearce, chief administrative officer.

“We will need direction from council who will need thorough background information.”

The society did not have content insurance for items stored in the grandstand, including some used televisions and a 20-year-old sound system.

The society recently announced there would be no Vernon Racing Days this summer and now the fire puts the 2015 season in doubt.

“There is a possibility around a temporary grandstand and we would have to work out something electrical for the betting machines,” said Woolley.

“Right now I would say that racing next year is questionable but we haven’t had a chance to sit down and look at the options.”

Fire and police investigators were back on scene Friday after sections of the unstable structure were demolished.

“We have taken away the threat to life and limb and we are investigating the potential area of fire origin,” said Lawrie Skolrood, deputy fire chief.

The B.C. Safety Authority had issued orders regarding electrical issues in the grandstand so electricity is being considered by investigators.

“It appears the electricity was off in the building but the energy (power line) to the building was on,” said Skolrood.

Officials are unwilling to deem the blaze suspicious at this point.

“We want to be absolutely sure,” said Skolrood, adding that he is aware of speculation about the recent rash of arsons in Vernon.

“There’s no specific evidence that links any of those yet.”

Residents are still being asked to provide any photographs or video of the fire because they may provide useful details to investigators.

“Anyone with information, we will gladly take that too,” said Gord Molendyk, RCMP spokesperson.