Kelowna’s Blue Heights commercial complex on Highway 97 sustained a significant amount of fire damage on Tuesday.
A fire started shortly before 2 a.m. and tore through a number of businesses and cast a smoky haze over the Central Okanagan.
“First arriving officer (reported) black smoke coming from the roof and soffits of the entire commercial structure. Due to an open truss design with few firestops, the fire progressed rapidly,” Scott Clarke, platoon captain of the Kelowna Fire Department said in a press release.
“The fire was deemed as an exterior attack due to heavy fire conditions and an unstable structure. The severity was raised to a general alarm which means all available fire personnel are requested to respond, on and off duty.”
Clark said there were several occupants in one of the businesses, however, all were able to leave without injury. None of the other businesses were occupied at the time.
Water from firefighting efforts affected the Lexus Car Dealership on the south side of the fire building however, city utilities and fire personnel were able to remove a significant amount of runoff using trash pumps and vacuum trucks.
While it’s out now, the wreckage appears extensive and firefighters are expected to be working on mop-up throughout the day. They request that the public stay clear of the area if possible.
It’s not yet clear how many units of the commercial complex are affected and no word has been given on the cause.
It’s not the first time there’s been a significant fire at this location. In September 2018, one of the units was completely destroyed by fire.
The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, in collaboration with the Interior Health Authority, issued an air quality advisory for Kelowna in the aftermath of the fire.
They said it was due to high concentrations of fine particulate matter that are expected to persist until weather conditions change.
“A large structural fire overnight and an atmospheric inversion this morning have created conditions in which emitted smoke and particulates have been trapped in the valley, near ground level,” reads the alert, which was also posted on Environment Canada’s website.
Exposure is particularly a concern for individuals with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart disease, and diabetes; respiratory infections such as COVID-19, pregnant women, infants, and older adults. Persons with chronic underlying medical conditions or acute infections should postpone or reduce strenuous exercise until the advisory is lifted.