It is a riveting photograph from one of the darkest days in Vernon’s history.
A black-and-white photo from the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives of people searching for bodies amidst the ruins of the Okanagan Hotel, which stood at the northwest corner of 3oth Avenue and 33rd Street more than a century ago, until the night of Aug. 10, 1909 – almost 112 years ago – when it went up in flames.
The flames broke out before 2 a.m. There were at least 60 people in the hotel, which was more boarding house than hotel.
A man named Archie Hickling was hailed as a hero. He rescued two children from the fire, as did the hotel’s owner, A. Sigalet. A monument to Hickling’s bravery stands in the northwest corner of Vernon’s Polson Park, near the Vernon Lawn Bowling Club.
Vernon filmmaker Bruce Mol made a short movie about Hickling – When Duty Calls – and released it in 2009, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the deadly fire. The movie is available at the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives or can be watched below.