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‘It’s heartbreaking, like a death’: Historic house burns down in Penticton, B.C.

Click to play video: 'Penticton’s  Warren House burns down' Penticton’s Warren House burns down
WATCH: A pile of wood and shards of glass is all that’s left of the Warren House after a fire tore through the historic home in Penticton, B.C. he Warren House, which was operating as a bed and breakfast, was built in 1912. According to Randy Manuel, former director for the City of Penticton Museum and Archives, the Warren House was one of two CPR buildings still standing in Penticton – Mar 8, 2022

A pile of wood and shards of glass is all that’s left of the Warren House after a fire tore through the historic home in Penticton, B.C.

Witnesses described hearing an explosion before the home burst into flames around 2:15 p.m. on Monday.

“People from all around the block felt the combustion and the impact of the explosion. In fact, we felt it from the fire hall two blocks from here,” said Penticton fire chief Larry Watkinson.

Read more: Penticton, B.C. firefighters battle blaze at heritage home

The Warren House, which was operating as a bed and breakfast, was built in 1912.

According to Randy Manuel, former director for the City of Penticton Museum and Archives, the Warren House was one of two CPR buildings still standing in Penticton.

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“J.J. Warren was the president of the Kettle Valley Railway, and he was the individual who built this home. It also became a focal point for a lot of other railway executives who would arrive here in their private railway cars, park on the dock just behind us or come down the lake on the SS Sicamous and come and spend their summer holidays here,” said Manuel.

“It represents an era of Penticton’s wealth when it was a divisional point for railways, shipping, the fruit industry, sawmills, packing houses and canneries. It was really an era of prosperity.”

Click to play video: 'Penticton, B.C. heritage house engulfed in flames' Penticton, B.C. heritage house engulfed in flames
Penticton, B.C. heritage house engulfed in flames – Mar 7, 2022

Manuel, who assisted in creating the city registry of all the historic sites in Penticton, said he was shocked to hear the news.

“It’s heartbreaking, like a death,” he said.

“I was really at a loss for words, and I still am. I feel really bad about it because it was so unique, and we have very little left of that 100-plus-year-old era of Penticton’s past.”

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When fire crews first arrived on scene, Watkinson said the blaze was quickly upgraded to a three-alarm fire, which meant all hands on deck.

Thirty-five members and five fire engines responded to the fire while crews from the Summerland department assisted in responding to other emergency calls throughout Penticton.

“Right out of the fire hall we saw a large column of black smoke [in the direction of the lake] and in the early stages knew that it would be a relatively large event,” said Watkinson.

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Crews were able to contain the fire to the Warren property, and residents of the adjacent apartment building were able to return home last night.

“Within six minutes of being on scene, the building collapsed,” said Watkinson.

“We knew right away that the house was a loss, but we did not want to have the apartment building catch fire. If that happened, we would have been in a hard situation with a block fire.”

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An investigation is underway to determine what caused the initial explosion, but it is not believed to be suspicious at this time.

“We don’t at this time have any means to believe there was any malicious activity here,” said Watkinson.

“It seemed to be some sort of explosion that might have been gas-oriented. We don’t have a clear understanding of what caused the ignition nor what caused the fuel source to have the explosion. But it was severe.”

Watkinson is also reminding residents who have gas appliances to ensure that they are regularly checked and turned off when you leave your home.

Click to play video: 'Major fire at Penticton landfill produces heavy, black smoke visible from across the city' Major fire at Penticton landfill produces heavy, black smoke visible from across the city
Major fire at Penticton landfill produces heavy, black smoke visible from across the city – May 30, 2021

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