Update: 7 p.m.
Seventeen residents of the Three Gables Hotel have until Friday afternoon to find new homes, after safety concerns prompted the B.C. Fire Commissioner to issue a 48-hour evacuation order for the downtown Penticton building.
“We have tried to work with the owner and he has just not complied with any of our deficiency requests and this was our final step,” Penticton fire chief Wayne Williams told reporters today.
He explained that monthly inspections of the Martin Street low-income hotel consistently turned up multiple fire hazards, such as broken alarms and insufficient — or missing — fire doors on the dozen units inside.
“That was the biggest concern, I think, were those doors and the fast spread of a fire should a fire occur in there,” Williams said.
“Even when we were over there today, some of the units are protected by a piece of plywood, instead of a door, that’s just nailed on, which people can just pull off and live in the unit.”
The chief said residents will receive a package with information about social services that are available to them, including bus ticket and beds at a homeless shelter in Kelowna.
“Our first priority is the security of the residents, and this was done to protect their safety,” Williams added.
He said “extensive work” would be required to bring the building up to code by Friday afternoon.
Raj Singh, a representative of property owner Harbans Randhawa, said they are considering a plan to renovate and upgrade the building, and will provide further comment after the evacuation.
The hotel was long an important part of the downtown Penticton business community until a large portion of it was destroyed by fire in 2000.
It fell into disrepair afterwards and the second floor of what remains of the structure was converted into long-term, low-income housing. A liquor store at street level is not affected by the evacuation order.
Cpl. Martin Trudeau, a spokesman for the Penticton RCMP, said the Three Gables is a frequent stop for officers.
“The residents and the clientele living in that building typically have very limited financial funds to rely upon. Some suffer from health issues, some may have mental health (concerns), some are probably fighting addictions as well, so this type of clientele will bring different kinds of problems: disturbances and those type of things,” he said.
“It’s a place we did go often, but today the residents we dealt with were 100 per cent co-operative with us.”
Update: 2:48 p.m.
A press conference has been scheduled for 4 p.m. to explain more about what led up to the B.C. Fire Commissioner issuing an evacuation order for the Three Gables.
According to a press release, the order was made “due to existing conditions that might seriously endanger life or property in the event of a fire.”
Posted 2 p.m.
Seventeen residents of the Three Gables Hotel in downtown Penticton are looking for new homes after the building was shut down for safety reasons.
Some of the displaced residents are expected to be transported to Kelowna’s Gospel Mission, according to spokeswoman Ami Catriona.
“I know there were 17 people that were displaced. I don’t know if all of them will be coming to the mission,” she said, adding the non-profit was asked to help Wednesday morning by a worker from the B.C. Emergency Social Services program.
“This is very out of the ordinary,” she said.
Spokespeople for ESS, Interior Health, the City of Penticton and the Three Gables were unable to immediately provide comment Wednesday afternoon.
For many years, the Three Gables was a key piece of the downtown business community, but it fell into disrepair after fire destroyed part of the building in 2000.
More to come.