Sgt. Brendan McKenna of the Cranbrook RCMP detachment is commending the response of the officers who spotted the Baker St. fire and were able to save the lives of two individuals.
The fire was spotted by Cranbrook RCMP officer Const. Ian Ferrier at 1 a.m. early Tuesday morning, according to McKenna.
Ferrier is a 15 year RCMP veteran. He had been in the area on regular patrols that have stepped up since a recent increase in break ins and vandalism downtown. Ferrier noticed smoke, and upon investigation discovered flames in the building. He contacted the RCMP Communications Centre, Cranbrook Fire Department, BC Ambulance Services and Cranbrook Public Works.
Constables Josh Mielken and Drew Tarala attended the scene after the initial call. They were able to wake up the two occupants of the building who were able to get to safety by jumping from a back staircase to Cranbrook Photo's lower roof, where they were rescued by the Cranbrook Fire Department's bucket truck.
"Risking their own personal safety, all three police officers made diligent efforts to find and alert the two occupants within the rooming house before the entire building was engulfed in flames," McKenna said. "Cranbrook RCMP and the citizens of Cranbrook are rightly proud of the swift and effective actions of Constables Ferrier, Mielken and Tarala in preventing what surely would have been a loss of lives had they not intervened."
McKenna, who is the Operations non-commissioned officer for the Cranbrook detachment, said RCMP officers were on scene Wednesday and would be for quite a while as they wait for the debris to cool enough to begin the investigation. He said some structure fires can be hot for as long as 72 hours after they've been fully put out. The amount of damage could hamper the investigation process into the cause.
"The longer the fire burns and the more extensive the damage, the more difficult it is to determine the cause," he said.
Cranbrook's Cpl. Pat Prefontaine is trained as a forensic identification specialist, and one other officer happens to be in Cranbrook for the summer with the same training. McKenna expects more specialists to be brought in as the investigation continues. He also predicted the money lost will be staggering once it's all tallied.
McKenna said the RCMP will not make any disclosures about the state of the building, or the cause until the investigation closes. The RCMP have not declared the fire was the result of an arsonist, but they have not ruled it out yet, either.
"You have to investigate from that perspective," he said.
McKenna said he's not surprised his officers acted the way they did.
"These notable actions are typical of the work being done on a daily basis in communities throughout the province of British Columbia by the fine men and women who work for the RCMP," he said.
Anyone with information about the fire is encouraged to come forward and contact Cpl. Prefontaine at the Cranbrook RCMP detachment.
"We're happy to talk to anyone in the public who may have information on the potential cause of the fire."