Keremeos and District Volunteer Fire Department responded to a fire that broke out in a building containing a pet groomers, with living quarters in the rear, in Keremeos at apprxomately 1:30 a.m. Monday morning, February 3.
The building, located on Seventh Avenue, was destroyed in the blaze. Sixteen firefighters battled through a chilly, windy night to save adjacent buildings. Seventh Avenue was turned into a skating rink in front of the business, located between the Keremeos BC Liquor store and Berg’s Ox Yoke Collectables shop.
“It was a good save,” said a thankful Geoff Berg, owner of the collectable store adjacent to the fire. “The firefighters were in and out of here all night, making sure the wall stayed cool.” Berg’s business is intact, save for some minor smoke damage.
The Paw Spa, a main street business that only opened its doors in November last year, was totally destroyed in the fire.
“I lost everything,” said Jennifer Montgomery, owner of the Paw Spa, as she surveyed the pile of rubble that used to house her business early Monday morning. Montgomery figures she lost $10,000 worth of equipment in the fire.
“I was just starting out, trying to get going,” she said, “and I hadn’t yet purchased insurance.” Montgomery is looking at other locations on Seventh Avenue to relocate in. In the meantime, she plans to operate out of her home.
RCMP Constable Pam Schiedl said the fire’s origin has been confirmed as accidental and is not deemed to be suspicious in origin. A woman living in the rear apartment has found other temporary accommodation in the area. No one was injured in the fire.
Schiedl said firefighters on scene battled wind and cold.
“Their faces and visors were constantly getting coated in ice,” she said, “ambulances were on scene to provide them with a few minutes warmth.”
Argo Road Maintenance and Keremeos maintenance workers were busy early Monday morning sanding and salting the roadway and adjacent sidewalks, turned into a skating rink from last night’s firefighting efforts.
The fire was tough one to fight,said KVFD Fire Chief Jordy Bosscha. “It was an old building with a shiplap ceiling that made it difficult for firefighters to access. An excavator was brought in to help knock the building down and prevent spread to neighbouring properties,” he said. “The firefighters did a great job under difficult circumstances.”
Fortunately for the firefighters, there was a small gap between adjacent buildings, which helped keep the fire confined.
Many firefighters were using turnout gear still drying from Saturday evening’s fire at the Riverbed Bistro.
This was the second fire to strike a Keremeos business last weekend.
On Saturday night, February 1, the Riverbed Bistro’s upper floor of living accommodations was gutted in a blaze that began around 7:30 Saturday evening.
Flames were visible on two sides of the upper floor when fire crews arrived on scene, which is across the highway from the Keremeos fire hall.
No injuries were reported. The units were believed to have been vacant and under renovation at the time.
Twenty firefighters were on scene for three hours.
“We were planning to open today,” (February 3) said Riverbed Bistro owner Paul Uppal on Monday afternoon, who added the businesss had been closed temporarily last week after his cook quit.
“I had just made arrangements to hire a new cook from the coast,” he said, “and we were painting downstairs while this was going on. The painting was supposed to be finished this weekend.”
Uppal said he did not know what caused the fire, adding the police and fire department had prevented him from entering the building on the weekend, as they were conducting an investigation. The upper floor was unoccupied, and there was nothing being done upstairs. The last occupant moved out in December.
Uppal said he hopes to be able to reopen within a couple of months.
“Most of the damage was done upstairs,” he said, “with smoke and water damage downstairs.” Uppal expressed concern that his recent hires were relocating to Keremeos, and now he had no work for them.
The Keremeos fire department had special thanks for the quick response and assistance from RCMP, BC Ambulance Service, Argo Road Maintenance Fortis power and gas crews, and Dutchies Contracting.
Investigation of the fire continues.