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UPDATE: RCMP looking for information on downtown Vernon fire

6 businesses and a home were lost, North Okanagan Friendship Society unscathed

Crews have begun to clean up, after a major blaze in downtown Vernon destroyed six local businesses.

Vernon Fire Rescue Services (VFRS) remains on the scene of the major structure fire in the 2800 block of 30th Street. Heavy equipment was brought in to demolish the walls of the building so firefighters could gain better access to the interior and attack hot spots.

Demolition of the building is expected to be complete by 8 p.m. today, and then the site will be fenced and secured.

Due to ongoing work in the area, 30th Street will remain closed overnight between 28th and 30th avenues and will be reopened tomorrow morning. However, 29th Avenue is expected to be opened late this evening.

Vernon Fire Rescue Services (VFRS) thanks everyone for their patience and understanding while this emergency response work has been completed. In particular, VFRS thanks the Armstrong Spallumcheen Fire Department for providing additional apparatus and personnel to assist with the fire suppression efforts, as well as all the other responding agencies who provided service throughout the day.

The investigation into the cause of fire is with the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP, so no further updates will be provided by VFRS.

According to fire chief David Lind, crews were called around 2:20 a.m. on Tuesday, July 4, to the 2800-block of 30th Street.

“The fire was located on the south wall, and as crews located it, they quickly determined that the fire started from outside the structure,” said Lind. “It was filled with heavy, thick smoke and they had to back out at that point and set up for a defensive attack.”

The fire is currently under investigation by Vernon North Okanagan RCMP and is deemed suspicious in nature.

“While the fire department was battling the fire, our officers canvased the area for potential witnesses or video surveillance of the incident,” said Cpl. Tania Finn, media relations officer. “Based on information we learned at the scene, police are treating the fire as suspicious.”

There were no injuries, as a single occupant and a dog were able to escape. The sheer size of the fire required the services of BC Ambulance Services, City of Vernon Operations and the Armstrong Spallumcheen Fire Department.

“At the peak of the event, we had three aerial devices on the fire,” Lind said. “Along with two fire engines and 25 to 27 firefighters.”

Among the lost businesses include Vernon Centre Pawn, The Cauldron Metaphysical Shop, Eunike Consignment, Jax & King Salon, Classy Canine Grooming and The Okanagan Eatery.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help support The Okanagan Eatery, which is run by a young couple, Chelsea and David White.

“This is a big impact on the business owners in the community,” Lind explained. “You are dealing with several local businesses who add tremendous value to our community, so our hearts are definitely with these folks.”

The abutting North Okanagan Friendship Society was spared from the damage thanks to a firewall.

The Forensic Identification Section has completed the examination of the scene and police continue to investigate this incident.

Bowen Assman

About the Author: Bowen Assman

I joined The Morning Star team in January 2023 as a reporter. Before that, I spent 10 months covering sports in Kelowna.
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