One of the oldest homes in the city could be permanently damaged after a structure fire broke out Wednesday night on Oak Street.
Although the rental home was vacated when the 9-1-1 call came in around 11 p.m., a fire in the kitchen and the stairwell of the house at 1955 Oak Street was fully engaged when fire crews arrived six minutes after the call was made.
Smoke was billowing out from the eaves of the home, said Terry Martin, Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire Rescue (KBRFR) chief, as his 15 firefighters — plus five more from Company No. 2 in Warfield — went quickly to work.
Within 50 minutes the crews had the fire contained and extinguished, Martin said, not allowing it to spread to the rest of the house or to the homes nearby.
The fire caused heavy damage to the kitchen area and to the stairwell, he noted, while the rest of the house was largely untouched.
“But the unfortunate thing with any house fire is the associated heat and smoke damage goes throughout the rest of the house,” Martin said. “It is damaged, not by fire, but by heat and smoke.”
Nobody was in the residence at the time of the fire, since the tenants who had been renting the home had just recently moved out. There were a few belongings left in the home but they were not burned.
The home was one of the original houses on Oak Street in West Trail, said Martin, the oldest area of the city.
Many of the homes in that area were built in the early 1920s.
Martin and several KBRFR members spent Thursday morning surveying the scene to determine the cause of the fire — as well as assessing the extent of damage with an insurance adjuster.
In order to not compromise the investigation, Martin could not say how the fire started.
“At this point we’re not looking at it being suspicious in nature, but it is still under investigation,” he said.
The greatest danger during the incident was the steepness of the stairwell down from Oak Street to where the house was located. Firefighters had to be careful hauling heavy lengths of hose and equipment up and down the stairwell in the dark.
“That could get treacherous, but it didn’t,” said Martin.