Kelowna heritage farmhouse fire likely human-caused: fire investigators

Click to play video: 'Update on old Fleming House  fire' Update on old Fleming House fire
Update on old Fleming House fire – Jul 3, 2018

Fire investigators say a blaze that destroyed an old heritage farmhouse in Kelowna was likely caused by humans.

Crews were called to the 147-year-old Fleming House near Leckie Road and Dilworth Drive around 6 p.m. on Monday.

“The fire actually started at the front entrance of the house. There’s kind of a pit area, and it looks like some homeless people had lit a fire within that pit area,” said Kelowna fire inspector Paul Johnson. “It was nice and sheltered from the view of the public.”

READ MORE: UPDATED: Fire crews called to Kelowna’s old grist mill property for building fire

Because of structural issues, crews could not enter the building initially.

Johnson said the fire spread quickly.

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“There was a lot of lath and plaster,” John said. “It was older construction, and there was some heavy beam construction.”

“It was a very solid house, but unfortunately solid houses succumb to fire as well.”

Many people in the community expressed sorrow at the loss of the historical building, including Shona Harrison, the founder of the online group Old Kelowna.

“We have so few of these buildings, and this is one of the oldest that was remaining,” she said. “It’s gone and it cannot be replaced.”

Harrison said the former farmhouse was passed between pioneering families and that layers of history are built into its walls.

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“In 1871, these are the materials they were using, this is how they lived in that space. And then we go to 1909,” Harrison said.  “These are the materials and this is how they moved within that environment.”

READ MORE: UPDATED: Series of spot fires on West Kelowna’s Mount Boucherie

Central Okanagan Heritage Society president Don Knox said the organization had been hoping the Fleming House would be restored in the future.

“It was unfortunate. It was a shock,” he said of the fire.

“Originally we were hoping it wasn’t as bad. We’re going to take a look at it ourselves,” Knox said. “I’ve been in discussions with city staff already. I don’t want to write anything off until we do an evaluation, but we don’t know at this point.”

The Fleming House was moved from its original site in 2002, but had been sitting empty since.

The roof had been replaced about a decade ago, Knox said.

“The building was in stable condition, and it was just a matter of trying to find a purpose for it,” he added. “With the rail trail going right by here we were pretty excited that something would come up.”

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