A Penticton neighbourhood is mourning the possible loss of an elderly resident, who is missing following a devastating structure fire on Wednesday evening.
The Penticton Fire Department was called to the Lakeside Drive home on the northeast side of Skaha Lake just after 6 p.m.
Witnesses report the home was fully involved within minutes, before flames spread to a neighboring home and threatened the Skaha Lake marina building.
Neighbours said the woman, in her 90’s, was deaf and blind, but lived independently with the assistance of her family.
A witness told fire officials that the woman was inside the structure at the time.
“It’s really, really sad and scary, I could cry any minute,” said neighbor Christine Bade.
It’s believed the homeowner wasn’t able to escape, but fire investigators have yet to find her remains in the rubble and ash.
The case is now a missing person file with the RCMP.
“Very, very upset,” said neighbor and friend John Vassilaki. “We couldn’t sleep all night thinking about it, because we’ve known her for so long. She was a friend.”
He described her as a “kind-hearted” woman.
“She loved to work outside, she had a lot of stuff piled in the yard, front and back, very, very nice lady,” said neighbor John Vassilaki.
Penticton Fire Chief Larry Watkinson said they had been alerted to the property in the past due to complaints about hoarding and unsightly conditions.
He said the plethora of materials in the back and front yard likely contributed to how quickly the home was engulfed in flames.
Witnesses said the fire spread rapidly.
“Five minutes it just was just engulfed… it’s devastating,” said Richard Ouellet, who was riding past the property on his bike when he spotted the flames and alerted emergency responders. “You feel so helpless.”
“Within about 30 seconds it was right through the roof,” said Vassilaki. “I would say it went up as high as 80-100 ft. high.”
Thirty-six firefighters responded to the three-alarm fire and utilized a ladder truck to douse the flames flaring up through the roof.
A second home at 3919 Lakeside Drive damaged by the fire is also a write-off.
The family who lived there has faced their share of adversity.
The couple owns Penticton’s White Spot, which also burnt down in 2011, and then rebuilt.
The $1.2 million waterfront property home was previously owned by former Penticton mayor Mike Pearce.
Watkinson said despite the extensive damage it could have been even worse.
“As hard as it is to say that we’ve lost two structures, I believe that saving the marina, the park, if that wind would’ve picked up harder, we could have literally of had a block fire.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
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