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Two dead in Penticton condo complex fire

Click to play video 'Two dead in Penticton condo complex fire' Two dead in Penticton condo complex fire
Two dead in Penticton condo complex fire – Oct 27, 2020

The remains of two people were found in a Penticton condo building that was heavily damaged by fire on Tuesday.

The fire, at a three-storey apartment complex on the 200 block of Elm Avenue, also displaced dozens of residents.

The blaze was reported just after 4 a.m., Tuesday.

Fire Chief Larry Watkinson described the initial fire scene as chaotic and said firefighters weren’t sure in the immediate aftermath of the blaze if everyone had made it out safely.

“We did have people looking for help, we just don’t know if they got out of the building,” Watkinson said around 8:30 on Tuesday morning.

“(There were) lots of people around, obviously. it was a very chaotic scene because of the wind and the fire. Fire crews aggressively attacked the fire. We just don’t know if everybody got out of the building because we haven’t been able to get into the building to conduct a full search of it yet.”

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WATCH BELOW: Witnesses describe Penticton condo fire that claimed two lives 

Click to play video 'Witnesses describe ‘absolutely terrifying’ Penticton apartment fire' Witnesses describe ‘absolutely terrifying’ Penticton apartment fire
Witnesses describe ‘absolutely terrifying’ Penticton apartment fire – Oct 27, 2020

The building overlooks Skaha Lake Park and Penticton’s fire chief said wind coming off the lake fanned the flames.

By late Tuesday morning, firefighters were searching the heavily damaged building to determine whether everyone was able to escape safely.

Firefighters initially had to wait for a structural engineering assessment on the building to determine if it was safe for them to go in and perform a thorough search of the complex.

Around 4 p.m., police confirmed the remains of two people had been found inside the building.

Police said the cause of the blaze has yet to be determined, but “it does not appear to be criminal in nature.”

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Penticton’s fire chief said wind fanned the flames burning an apartment building early Tuesday morning. Judie Schinz

Resident Deb Doyle said she only grabbed a jacket, her dog and the dog’s leash as she rushed to escape the building.

“Everything else is gone,” Doyle said.

“I think right now I’m still in shock mode. I’m a senior citizen so all your whole life is in those rooms. But the love and support of the community, friends and family you just feel like you are being held together.”

Read more: Poor visibility hampers response efforts to Penticton landfill fire

Doyle said she was alerted to the flames by the fire alarm and the screams of her neighbour shouting for people to get out of the building.

A neighbour who lives next door to the apartment complex said she awoke to the noise of yelling and air horns.

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Kim Phillip said firefighters were using air horns to alert residents of the apartment building to the fire and going door-to-door speaking with neighbours.

Click to play video 'Witness video of destructive Penticton apartment fire' Witness video of destructive Penticton apartment fire
Witness video of destructive Penticton apartment fire – Oct 27, 2020

Phillip said she was told if the flames jumped a firewall, houses in the area would need to be evacuated.

She describes watching the fire burn as “absolutely terrifying.”

“I was very nervous, very scared … I was worried for the people in the building, very upset,” she said.

At one point, Phillip started packing up her own vehicle fearing the fire might spread, but, in the end, her house was not impacted.

Doyle said fire alarms did go off in the burning building but that there were no sprinklers inside.

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– with files from Shelby Thom