A fire which gutted a double-wide trailer at Figueira’s Mobile Home Park Thursday afternoon has claimed the life of an elderly Penticton woman.
Deputy fire chief Dave Spalding confirmed the death of the female, who is believed to have been home alone at Unit 18 of the seniors park when the fire began.
“Unfortunately there is one fatality we don’t know who, we don’t know anything about that right now,” said Spalding as fire crews were still busy extinguishing the hot spots inside the structure.
“She was discovered in the back of the trailer but I don’t know what kind of a room it is yet, I haven’t been in myself yet but it’s pretty heavily damaged.
Shortly after their arrival just before 3 p.m. firefighters received information there was believed to be a person still inside the home.
While they were able to gain entry, with flames still visible from the windows, when they located the woman she had already died.
Initially six firefighters were on the scene which allowed them to go inside immediately.
“Anytime we make entry it’s extremely dangerous to firefighters, that’s why we have to have two guys outside for their safety,” said Spalding.
“We have two guys outside and two guys inside, if we can’t have that we can’t make entry but today we had six guys on so we could make a sustained attack so they didn’t have to come back out.
“If you don’t have enough guys they have to come back out and the fire continues to burn but today we were able to keep that fire attack sustained and keep the fire knocked down which means less damage and usually preservation of life but in this case unfortunately that wasn’t the case.”
Cause of the fire and where it began are still under investigation. As a result of the death the RCMP and B.C. Coroners Services are also involved in the case.
The deputy chief and neighbour Gladys Alexander, who lives across the road from the residence, said the victim’s husband returned shortly after the fire began.
“I believe she was home because he came home and parked at my other neighbours house because he could see the smoke,” said Alexander.
“I understand she was not well. They had lived there for years and years.”
Alexander had just come home herself and had gone to the front of her trailer to pick up the mail.
That’s when she noticed the heavy smoke pouring from the roof of the building and called 911. Shortly afterwards flames burst from the structure, almost completely engulfing it.
“Unfortunately with mobile homes when they do catch fire they burn so rapidly,” said Spalding.
The victim’s husband later returned briefly with a man believed to be the couple’s son and walked by the still smoking trailer with the help of BC Ambulance paramedic and on to a waiting car. According to Spalding, although the full impact of the fire had not yet sunk in, fatalities are often difficult for emergency responders as well.
“It’s (loss of life) very tough on firefighters, I mean our whole object is the preservation of life,” he said. This is believed to be the second fire-related fatality in the last three months. A woman’s body was found in a room at the Jubilee Motel Aug. 16. When firefighters arrived the fire had already burned out. At the time Spalding indicated smoker’s material may have been the cause of the fire.
An exact cause of death has not been released.