Waiting game for Penticton businesses affected by fire

A dozen downtown businesses are still waiting to see the damage caused by a fire on Wednesday.

Penticton Fire Rescue crews work to put out a fire hot spot at the back of the building at 219 Main Street the morning of Sept. 30. The structure houses Fibonacci Cafe and Hooked on Books as well as several upstairs offices. Investigators are currently on scene trying to determine the cause of the fire.

A dozen downtown businesses are still waiting to see the damage caused by a fire on Wednesday.

“If it was our choice we would definitely be reopening. Fibonacci’s has been our lives for the past decade, so it would be very hard to walk away from,” said co-owner Trisha Paseska, who is still waiting on the decision if the building will get repaired or torn down. “There are so many memories, events, memorable visitors and stories that have been made there, and many more to come. The fire is a shock to everyone and may take a few months to recover, but it will come back even stronger when it reopens.”

The cause of a morning fire in the 200-block of Main Street on Sept. 30 remains undetermined at press time. Investigators were still at the scene the day after the fire which closed the ground-floor tenants, Hooked on Books and Fibonacci Roastery and Café along with 10 second-floor offices. Those business owners were all left trying to find ways to continue serving their respective clients as best they could following the fire.

No one has yet been allowed inside as crews inspect the structural integrity of the building which was constructed in 1946, and search for a cause.

“I haven’t had access to the building myself, nor have I been able to view it inside, nor have I been told what the cause was,” said Nikos Theodosakis, who owns the buildings and watched the efforts of firefighters from across the street that morning. “So right now anything would be a guess, but the fire department have been very helpful they were excellent yesterday (Sept. 30).”

Fortunately, unlike many other downtown buildings, there were no residential units upstairs and no one was inside.

The initial report of a structure fire came in at 4:42 a.m. at which time two trucks and six firefighters responded.

“They had some visible smoke in the Hooked on Books and when they investigated they found they had fire in the floor space between the first and second floor,” said deputy fire chief Dave Spalding. “It eventually extended into the offices in the second floor. They were able to get control of it in the Delta Charlie corner, which is the north west corner, so we made a stop of it and got the building broken open.”

Firefighters remained on scene until early afternoon mopping up the hotspots caused mainly by the sawdust insulation. At one point nearly 30 firefighters were on scene and shortly afterwards fire investigator Ken Barbour began searching for clues to a possible cause.

The majority of the firefighting efforts were concentrated at the back of the building and on the roof where smoke continued to escape and flames could occasionally be seen through the upstairs window into the late morning.

Marcel Zubriski and wife Judy, who operate Hooked on Books, are also waiting to see the extent of the damage.

“Everybody is in the same boat… Everybody is at a standstill until they know it’s structurally sound and safe to go in there,” said Marcel.

“We’re endeavouring to get the (telephone) lines transferred over to our residence so people can call our regular number and another line so we can answer people’s questions and get them their book orders as best we can. We’re still in business.”

Someone else left scrambling to provide immediate assistance to clients is Nicholas Vincent, who owns WebZen Design (formerly Shadowfax Communications).

His Main Street office contained web servers that ran a number of his customer’s websites. In a message to his clients he wrote: “the effect to our server infrastructure is totaled and is unlikely they will be online again within a week, if at all.”

He estimated about 30 to 50 per cent of those who subscribe to his services were impacted which included mainly clients in the Okanagan, a few in the United Sates and a couple overseas.

“They range from small businesses to personal websites,” said Vincent who is looking after some of his customers from the Cowork Penticton location he runs with wife Jennifer. “We have off site backup and I have some degree of contingency plan in place which I’m working through now and talking to all of my clients to see what the best way forward is. Basically, I have a few blanket-type fixes I can put into place to get about 70 per cent of services back but for most clients it’s a case-by-case issue.”

He estimated the value of the hardware in the office at about $15,000. Having owned the business, which actually began at that location over a decade ago, for 14 months, Vincent said he will probably move to a new office in the future.

At this point it’s not known when owners will be allowed inside.



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