Search of smouldering house ruins ends with an all-clear

Osoyoos firefighters watch from above as two of their own explore a burned-out basement following an overnight house fire.

Firefighters and local RCMP spent the best part of Wednesday morning at the scene of an overnight house fire in Osoyoos, making sure no one was trapped in a basement beneath the smouldering ruins.

“We did have some information that perhaps a homeless individual in the area had been staying here, although we had no specific information that he stayed there last night,” said Cpl. Dave Smith of a of a blaze on Meadowlark Drive that had Osoyoos firefighters out of their beds at 2 a.m.

“However, since that time we’ve been able to track that specific person down and the fire department here with the excavator was just out of an abundance of caution . . . so that we could be absolutely certain that there was nobody in that house.”

Members of the Osoyoos Fire Department — including Chief Ryan McCaskill and Battalion Chief Blake Ogilvy — returned to the property around 8 a.m. this morning.

“We went in the basement and checked out all the rooms after we deemed it safe,” said Chief McCaskill. “We dug out some of the collapsed floor and checked out all the living quarters. There was nothing down there.”

He described the fire as a “fully involved structure fire” at a residence which was “previously burnt out before.”

“We got on-scene and knocked it down pretty quick, but we couldn’t check the basement,” he explained. “We needed an excavator to come in to clear the top and make it safe to go into the basement and do a proper search.”

Cpl Smith said the property was slated for demolition next week but suggested the fire is suspicious.

“At this point, we’re not too sure how the fire started. But obviously when there’s no power or no gas to a house, it is suspicious.”

Chief McCaskill said the community has a number of derelict abandoned buildings that could be death traps for squatters occupying them.

“They don’t have power, they don’t have electricity, so what do they do? They make a fire to keep themselves warm or cook their food or they light candles to see,” he said.

“Those things are just so run down that it takes next to nothing for them to go up on you.”

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