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Vernon, B.C. fire department shares details of response to fatal blaze

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Vernon fire department shares details of response to fatal fire
WATCH: The deaths of three people in a house fire near Vernon last week have raised a lot of questions. Now the fire department is filling in some of the blanks detailing their response to the blaze. – Mar 13, 2023

The deaths of three people in a house fire near Vernon, B.C. last week have raised a lot of questions.

Now the fire department is filling in some of the blanks by detailing its response to the blaze.

In an interview, Vernon Fire Rescue Services’ deputy chief of operations, Alan Hofsink, defended the department’s handling of the situation saying firefighters responded when they received the call and there was nothing crews could have done differently once on scene.

“They did a good job at suppressing the fire in a defensive mode,” Hofsink said. “It is just critical to all homeowners to make sure they have working fire detection.”

Hofsink couldn’t comment on whether the burnt house had smoke alarms.

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The fire was originally called in by a resident in the Predator Ridge neighbourhood of Vernon around 11:45 p.m. on March 6,  and was thought to be in the Predator Ridge area, Hofsink said.

However, the blaze turned out to be on nearby Commonage Road, which is outside of any municipal fire department’s jurisdiction.

“The first original caller called from a distance away and saw the flames coming through the roof. This fire was burning for some time. How long? I’m not sure,” the deputy chief said.

The fire department said the Predator Ridge location confusion didn’t delay the response.

Hofsink said crews responded “promptly” arriving at the fire within 15 minutes and, for that location, outside the department’s service area, that is the expected response time.

Once on scene, Hofsink said firefighters found a fully-involved structure fire and fought the blaze defensively.

Despite the fire being outside of the city’s jurisdiction, crews still remained on the scene to fight the blaze to ensure the fire didn’t spread beyond the original structure.

Hofsink said when the fire department was initially dispatched it did not know the burning home was occupied and it only became aware about a half hour into the response after speaking to a neighbour.

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Asked if it was possible to go into the home to try to rescue people, Hofsink said, “No…there was no attempt to go interior as it was fully involved. Upon arrival, the roof had collapsed.”

Currently, the Vernon fire department’s Predator Ridge fire hall, which is only about a two-minute drive from the site of the fatal fire, is only staffed during high-risk periods like the wildfire season.

However, that could change in the future.

“We do have some future staffing models that are in play and we are hoping to develop those over the next months to years,” Hofsink said.

RCMP said last Friday, its preliminary investigation suggested there is nothing criminal about the blaze.

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