Kelowna RCMP has told Global News a patrolling officer heard a loud explosion, as did many witnesses, before flames broke out behind the Rutland Activity Centre Thursday night.
Numerous calls to 911 reported flames rising from the rear of the building off Dodd Road before 11 p.m., which is also known as the Rutland Senior Centre. No one was in the building at the time of the blaze.
Police said witnesses saw three youth flee the area of the fire immediately after the explosion and were able to identify them before they left.
The three are in custody being questioned, according to RCMP, thanks to officers arriving at the scene quickly.
The Kelowna Fire Department said police officers were on the scene using fire extinguishers in attempts to put out the flames when firefighters arrived.
“Our crews attacked it with a hose line. But by then, it had already spread,” Kelowna Fire Department deputy chief Keith Meldrum told Global News. “It had gotten up into the soffit and up into the roof of the building.”
Meldrum said crews were able to contain the fire and were examining the interior of the structure to ensure the flames did not spread.
A thick smoke blanketed the parking lot and neighbourhood, which is also home to the Kelowna Rutland YMCA, the Rutland Arena and the Kelowna Little Travelers Safety Village.
A point of origin is apparent, according to investigators.
“There are some obvious signs outside the building where you can see where the fire was and how that extended up the outside wall and into the soffiting,” Meldrum said.
“There was the sound of fireworks earlier,” Rutland resident Shannon Daniels posted on Facebook.
The official cause of the fire is under investigation, according to Meldrum.
The building is operated by the City of Kelowna and the Rutland Senior Society.
The fire is expected to affect activities at the centre Friday.