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Heritage home explodes in Penticton, flames spread to neighbouring apartment

Incident occurred March 7 around 2 p.m.

It was a gas explosion that caused the Lakeshore legacy Warren House to explode and completely engulf in flames Monday, March 7, confirmed Penticton fire chief Larry Watkinson.

“We know it was a gas explosion but we don’t know the details of how that happened,” said Watkinson.

It was just before 2 p.m. when people were out walking and neighbours heard what sounded like a bomb go off along iconic Lakeshore Drive.

Firefighters arrived on scene to a massive blaze at the heritage home located at 434 Lakeshore Drive.

“Within six minutes of arriving on scene, the building collapsed,” said Watkinson. “We knew we couldn’t save the house so our main goal was to protect the neighbouring apartment.”

The explosion destroyed the home which collapsed onto itself and there was no way of saving it, he added.

More than 50 people were evacuated from the neighbouring four-storey apartment, many of them only in socks or barefoot after hearing the blast and rushing out the door. No one was injured in the blast, he said.

The family who lives in the Warren House were not home at the time of the blaze.

“It’s a devastating loss for the family and for the community to lose a legacy house in our community,” said Watkinson. “That home stood its ground for over 100 years and to see if it go up in flames is hard to see for our whole community.”

warren house

It was all hands on deck with 35 firefighters and five pieces of equipment battling the three-alarm fire. Crews were working on the blaze until around 7:30 p.m. Monday

“I’m happy to say that all residents of the neighbouring got to return to their homes last night,” he said. There is some damage to decks and the outside exterior but minor in comparison to what could have been.

Many in the community, including residents of the apartment, were grateful to the firefighters’ efforts to keep the blaze from spreading.

“I’m really proud of our members,” he said.

The Penticton Fire Department, FortisBC and the home’s insurance company were on scene on Tuesday, investigating.

The family who owned the Warren House spent hundreds of hours renovating and preserving the character of the home, right down to hand-restoring the floors and doors to their original form. The Warren House was a popular B&B for a few years before it was put on the market.

Constructed in 1913, the home was originally built for J.J. Warren, president of the Kettle Valley Railway.

In a video by Neuhouzz Real Estate Group, he shares the history of the area and construction of the Warren House. At the time, Lakeshore was the ‘hub bub’ of Penticton where they were building the CP Railway Station and Incola Hotel down the street.

realty video

Built originally in the Georgian style, the home and the size of the property was a testament to Mr. Warren’s status in Penticton.

Mandy Cordner Zach posted that she used to play at the Warren House as a child and collect chestnuts from the trees in the huge backyard.

Many others walking by the home have commented on how they have dreamed of owning such a beautiful house.

The Warren house was constructed in 1912 originally built for J.J. Warren, President of the Kettle Valley Railway. (Erin Newbery photo)
The Warren house was constructed in 1912 originally built for J.J. Warren, President of the Kettle Valley Railway. (Erin Newbery photo)

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Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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