Flames reduced a Roche Lake ranch house to rubble Friday morning, leaving nothing for the owner but the clothes on his back.
The loss has some residents wondering why neither Kamloops Fire and Rescue nor firefighters with the B.C. Forest Service were able to fight the blaze and potentially save the home at Seven Views Ranch.
The resident, who would only provide his first name, told The Daily News he drove into Kamloops some time between 8:30 and 9 a.m. Friday. RCMP believe the fire started soon after.
On the drive home, Michael said he could see smoke rising from the vicinity of his property from the highway. When he stopped to talk to a neighbour, he was told his house was on fire, he said.
As he sat on a picnic bench beside the home with one of his dogs, Michael’s neighbours and a police officer used garden hoses to put out hot spots.
A large, rock chimney is all that’s left standing. Michael said the home is insured.
“I’m pretty upset here,” he said, and rested his head in his hands.
RCMP Cpl. André Mathieu credits neighbours with saving the surrounding property, including a nearby shed and guesthouse. He said it was the neighbours who phoned 911 and set up sprinklers around the home.
Mathieu said the homeowner has lived at Seven Views for nine years. He has two dogs and 10 cats. Only a few of the cats were accounted for Friday afternoon.
The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined. But resident Jack Pennell said he heard an explosion from his home across the gully.
“There was a hell of a blast,” said Pennell.
That was enough for him to get in his truck and investigate, he said. By then the home was gone and the police had arrived.
Lauren Wilson, her husband Neil, and oldest son Russ offered their home and shower to Michael. She said Neil and Russ helped fight the flames.
“We came down to see if we could help,” said Wilson.
Wilson said it’s ridiculous that firefighters wouldn’t fight the blaze when lives could be at risk. Roche Lake has no dedicated fire service save for an old fire truck at the resort that’s barely road worthy.
“For him to be here on his own with a garden hose is silly,” she said, and pointed at her husband.
Fire and Rescue assistant chief Mike Adams said firefighters would love nothing more than to fight fires outside city limits. But, because the department is contracted to serve the City of Kamloops, they can’t tackle blazes outside City limits for reasons of insurance and liability.
“Our obligation is to the people of Kamloops,” he said.
In the case of the Tk’emlups Indian Band, the band pays for Fire and Rescue’s service, he said. Fire and Rescue can respond to vehicle accidents outside of town because of an arrangement with the province’s Provincial Emergency Program.
As for the B.C. Forest Service, fire information officer Kayla Pepper said forestry firefighters aren’t trained or equipped to battle structure fires. For issues of personal safety, they can’t answer the call.
However, had the fire spread into the forest, crews would have responded, she said.
Mathieu said the nearby forest was not at risk.
Living without fire protection is one of the risks that comes with residing in a rural area, said Pennell. He makes sure his grass is cut short and has cleared trees for several metres around his home to prevent a potential fire from spreading.