Vernon complex fire forces residents to flee homes

Three units severely damaged in fire in a row of townhouses home to people with disabilities.

Fire broke out in a row of Vernon townhouses Thursday afternoon.

The blaze is believed to have started in a one-bedroom unit in a row of five townhouses for people with disabilities at Kikanee Estates shortly after 3 p.m. in the 5700 block of Heritage Drive.

“I was going up Bella Vista (Road), immediately saw smoke and another car calling 911,” said fire witness Samantha Paulsen. “So I turned around, came down here a million miles an hour, started seeing flames and began running around to the houses and neighbours, banging on the doors trying to get everybody out.”

The unit where the fire is believed to have started housed a single woman in her 30s, and Kikanee Estates property manager Karen Gerein said the woman got out of the home, and that all of the tenants from the five units were accounted for.

“This is terrible,” she said. “It’s a beautiful complex with lovely tenants. These are our disabled units. People need this housing. The kids are upset, we have kids coming out of the complex.”

One unidentified woman said she lived in the unit beside the one on fire, and had nowhere to go and nobody to call.

“Now you do,” said another unidentified woman. “I just live down the street and you can come stay with me.”

Another young woman was seen running up the sidewalk into the waiting arms of her sobbing mom. Both are believed to be tenants of the complex, which houses 40 units in total.

Vernon Fire Chief Keith Green addressed the media gathered at the site and said three of the units were heavily damaged by the fire.

“The fire appears to have gone up into the attic space and run along into a couple of more units,” said Green. “I don’t have any more details at this time. One eyewitness said the fire started outside, and we’ll be looking into that.”

Green reaffirmed that all of the tenants had got out of the complex and had been reunited with loved ones.

Emergency social services personnel were called to help deal with the displaced tenants.

A cause of the fire had not been determined prior to The Morning Star’s press deadline.