Investigation into the Monday morning house fire in West Trail that destroyed three homes continued Tuesday with police taking over the lead.
Fire crews were called to the scene on Pine Avenue, where a house was consumed in fire, and two homes on either side were engulfed in flames.
“The cause of the fire is being treated as suspicious and the investigation is continuing,” confirmed Sgt. Rob Hawton of the Trail and Greater District RCMP in a press release Tuesday.
The fire was brought under control in five hours with 32 firefighters from Rossland, Warfield, Trail and Montrose on site, and the regional fire rescue took the reins of the investigation that morning.
Although there was no suspicious activity reported in the neighbourhood, located at the junction of Pine Avenue and Topping Street, the intensity of the fire and level of destruction hampered the initial investigation, said Terry Martin, regional fire chief.
“As an investigator when you see a house catch fire that no one has live in since June, it does raise suspicion,” said Martin. “I do not want to alarm people but that is why the RCMP are assisting and will be the lead agency in the investigation.”
The middle house, at 1557 Pine Ave., is presumed to be the source of the fire. The owners currently reside in Victoria but had begun renovations to the interior of the home.
“The house was down to the wood structure with a timber frame inside,” explained Martin. “That was the reason it burned so fast and nobody noticed until it was completely consumed.”
The heat of the fire was so intense, that the gas meter on house to the left was melted and free flowing gas further fed the flames. “We had electrical wires down which was a safety concern so Fortis was called to shut off the gas and power lines,” said Martin, adding, “it was a chaotic scene up there for quite some time.”
Residents reported being woken by the fire, hearing “popping sounds.” The source of those sounds could have been the three propane cylinders on site, or the numerous camping propane canisters in the house, explained Martin. “Also, when live wires burn off the house and hit the ground they crack and pop very loud so that could have been the noise that so many people heard.”
The middle home was burned to the foundation, and the two adjacent houses were damaged extensively, rendered uninhabitable and will require demolition.
Selkirk Security is on site to ensure public safety.
“Those folks are there not for the investigation but for safety. We don’t want people going near the structures because they are just not stable,” added Martin.