Sheri Regnier photo Mark O’Flanagan from K2 Contracting piled up blackened rubble from a Pine Avenue home on Tuesday. Three homes were destroyed in the Sept. 3 fire that took 32 firefighters more than five hours to bring under control.

Labour Day fires a stark reminder for renter’s insurance

Demolition of three Pine Avenue houses destroyed by a Labour Day fire continued this week.

Demolition of three Pine Avenue houses destroyed by a Labour Day fire continued this week.

Fire crews were called to the scene at the junction of Pine Avenue and Topping Street in the early morning hours of Sept. 3, where a house was consumed in fire and two homes on either side were engulfed in flames.

The middle home, which was uninhabited, was presumed to be the source of the fire.

Although the three houses were insured, including coverage for demolition and removal, the renters occupying one of the homes did not have tenant’s insurance and lost all their belongings in the fire.

“The landlords have insurance to protect their investment,” said Gary Kanda, manager and adjuster for Kootenay Adjusting and Consulting Ltd. in Trail. “But the tragic situation is that the tenants didn’t have insurance and of course, they lost everything.”

Kanda said a recurring phenomenon he sees with tenant-occupied properties and fire-related loss, is the lack of renter’s insurance.

“It’s really sad because for a minimum of $300 a year they would have temporary lodging paid for in this tight rental market and replacement of their goods,” he explained. “In general, tenants often do not see their valuables as much. But surprisingly, when you sit down and calculate the loss, it is shocking how everything adds up,”said Kanda, adding, “sometimes into the tens of thousands of dollars.”

With the last of the homes knocked down Tuesday, a cause of the blaze still has not been determined, confirmed Sgt. Rob Hawton of the Trail and Greater District RCMP.

“The case is still under investigation with no new information to supply at this time,” said Hawton. “It has not been determined whether the fire was set or accidental,” he explained. “We never give up on these things because sometimes we obtain information down the road from unlikely sources.”

The blaze was brought under control in five hours with 32 firefighters from Rossland, Warfield, Trail and Montrose attending the site, with no injuries reported.

Initially, the regional fire rescue took the reins of the investigation, and although there was no suspicious activity reported in the neighbourhood, the intensity of the fire and level of destruction had the RCMP taking over the lead the next day.

“As an investigator when you see a house catch fire that no one has live in since June, it does raise suspicion,” said Terry Martin, regional fire chief in an earlier interview.  “I don’t want to alarm people but that is why the RCMP are assisting and will be the lead agency in the investigation.”

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