Crews are still battling a major commercial structure fire in downtown Vernon.
Multiple businesses are impacted by the 30th Street fire, primarily the Okanagan Eatery and Vernon Pawn Centre.
Crews have confirmed that only one structure with multiple units (each containing a separate business) was involved in the fire. Crews have contained the fire, keeping it from spreading to adjacent buildings. The Kekuli Centre apartment remains evacuated as a precautionary measure.
“The roof of the structure that was involved with fire has collapsed, making it difficult for firefighters to attack the interior of the building,” said deputy fire chief Alan Hofsink. “Heavy equipment is now being brought down to the site to assist with tearing down walls. This will help crews gain better access to the interior so they can attack hot spots. Crews will remain on scene for several more hours.
“At this time, no injuries have been reported. The fire is suspected to be suspicious and Vernon North Okanagan RCMP is leading the investigation.”
Due to the size and scope of the fire, heavy smoke has blown across a large portion of the community.
An air quality advisory has been issued for Vernon.
Residents may notice smoke entering their homes or businesses. If this is the case, you are encouraged to turn off air conditioning units and close all windows until the smoke can clear from the area.
Power is out for nearly 1,000 businesses and properties in the area, including the Fruit Union Plaza.
City utility workers attended the scene to clear storm drains of debris and BC Hydro is helping to restore electricity to nearby buildings that lost power a few hours ago.
The fire was first reported at approximately 2:30 a.m. in the 2800-block of 30th Street.
The following roads are closed to traffic and pedestrians:
• 30th Street between 28th and 30th avenues
• 29th Street between 28th and 30th avenues
• 28th Avenue between 29th and 30th streets
The city of Vernon advises people to avoid the downtown core if necessary and find alternative travel routes.
Vernon Fire Rescue Services would like to thank all of the agencies and organizations that have assisted with the response this morning.
“Your time and efforts have been greatly appreciated.”