Firefighters douse water on to a strata-unit fire on Heritage Drive in Vernon's Bella Vista area Thursday afternoon.

Firefighters douse water on to a strata-unit fire on Heritage Drive in Vernon's Bella Vista area Thursday afternoon.

Kikanee Estates fire victims require help

Residents are being urged to rally behind tenants forced out of their homes by fire.

richard rolke

Morning Star Staff

Residents are being urged to rally behind tenants forced out of their homes by fire.

Five units sustained damage during the blaze at Kikanee Estates on Heritage Drive Thursday.

“There is either an adult or a child in a wheelchair living in each of these units,” said Karen Gerein, with the Vernon Native Housing Society, which owns the complex.

Some of the units will be unavailable to the tenants for the short-term while others will require significant reconstruction.

Alternate accommodations must be found as soon as possible.

“We have great tenants and they desperately need these units,” said Gerein.

Anyone with available ground-floor, one-level units is asked to call 250-550-5833. A mix of one, two and three-bedroom units is required.

Provincial assistance only offers emergency assistance for 72 hours but that would have officially ended today. An extension until Monday was granted.

“There’s not a lot of help you can get on Sundays so we broke our own rules,” said Helen Sinclair, Vernon’s deputy emergency social services co-ordinator.

“With ESS, we err on the side of humanity.”

Donations of furniture, clothing and other household items are also being sought and they can be dropped off at the Upper Room Mission, 3403 27th Ave.

“It’s hard to see the tenants distressed like this,” said Herein, adding that there was overwhelming support from the community while the fire was burning.

“Neighbours opened their yards and homes to us and that was really wonderful.”

Assistance has also come from the Interior Health Authority and the Salvation Army.

The fire began outside one of the units but the cause has not been determined.

“We haven’t found the source of ignition,” said Lawrie Skolrood, Vernon deputy fire chief.

“There was no barbecue but there is some wiring there. We’re not sure if there was a dried plant where a cigarette may have been left.”

The investigation will continue early this week as an electrical inspector will be required to visit the site.