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Fires leave two families homeless

Fire gutted this residence on Ferko Road in Cawston early Monday morning. No one was hurt in the blaze. - Steve Arstad
Fire gutted this residence on Ferko Road in Cawston early Monday morning. No one was hurt in the blaze.
— image credit: Steve Arstad

 

A dispute between two departing farmworkers cost Craig and Angie Erikson their Sumac Road home on Saturday morning.

Wind - fanned flames destroyed a storage building with second floor accommodations in addition to Erikson’s main residence. A bonfire, set by one of two farmworkers got out of hand early Saturday morning on the property, which is located in the South Similkameen, about 15 kilometres south of Cawston.

The farmworkers, a female from France and a male from the U.S. who were sharing accommodations, had earned their final paycheques and were preparing to return to the States Saturday.

“John was apparently drinking on Friday night. The two got into a fight and she threw him out,” said Craig Erikson Monday morning. Erikson’s family had been out participating in family activities in Penticton Friday evening, returning to their home around 9 p.m.

“He got cold outside, and started a fire,” Erikson continued, pointing to a sparse grove of blackened pine trees near the burned out building.

“He passed out, and when he woke up, the building was on fire.”

Not only was the farmworker’s building burning by then, but so was Erikson’s home, which just happened to be directly in line with strong winds that began earlier Friday evening.

Erikson credits the worker for warning the family if five, who all managed to escape, including the family pets. The female farmworker also got out of her building safely.

 

With strong, gusty winds pushing the  temperatures to minus 15 Celsius and lower, there wasn’t anything Erikson could do.

“I spent about a half hour running around before I realized I couldn’t save anything,” he said, noting that $60,000 worth of this summer’s crop of squash, which was located in the lower portion of the workers’ accommodaitons,  was destroyed. The family didn’t have time to save much from the house, which was filled with smoke by the time they were awakened, sometime between midnight and 3 a.m. Erikson said they were able to grab their cell phones and personal identification before fleeing the house.

 

“Everyone is safe, that’s the main thing,” Erikson said, “I’m really just thankful the kids are all okay, and that we all made it out.”

The Eriksons put in more than 2,500 hours and $30,000 into renovations to their home last fall.

“We had just spent thousands of hours and dollars fixing it up the way we wanted,” he said. The property is located outside of Keremeos and District Volunteer Fire Department’s protection area, so there was no response by the organization. Police did attend the scene  Saturday morning.

The family has insurance.

Monday morning, the Erikson’s three pet dogs lounged idly near the driveway, seemingly oblivious to Friday night’s disaster.

“We lost  one dog for a day, and the cat disappeared for two days, but they’re back. We were worried that the dog might have gone back into the fire.”

Erikson said the family would hopefully not have to seek accommodation elsewhere, as the property contained two other buildings that could be made habitable. He was busy preparing one of those buildings for his family Monday morning.

family pets. The female farmworker also got out of her building safely.

 

With strong, gusty winds pushing the  temperatures to minus 15 Celsius and lower, there wasn’t anything Erikson could do.

“I spent about a half hour running around before I realized I couldn’t save anything,” he said, noting that $60,000 worth of this summer’s crop of squash, which was located in the lower portion of the workers’ accommodaitons,  was destroyed. The family didn’t have time to save much from the house, which was filled with smoke by the time they were awakened, sometime between midnight and 3 a.m. Erikson said they were able to grab their cell phones and personal identification before fleeing the house.

 

“Everyone is safe, that’s the main thing,” Erikson said, “I’m really just thankful the kids are all okay, and that we all made it out.”

The Eriksons put in more than 2,500 hours and $30,000 into renovations to their home last fall.

“We had just spent thousands of hours and dollars fixing it up the way we wanted,” he said. The property is located outside of Keremeos and District Volunteer Fire Department’s protection area, so there was no response by the organization. Police did attend the scene  Saturday morning.

The family has insurance.

Monday morning, the Erikson’s three pet dogs lounged idly near the driveway, seemingly oblivious to Friday night’s disaster.

“We lost  one dog for a day, and the cat disappeared for two days, but they’re back. We were worried that the dog might have gone back into the fire.”

Erikson said the family would hopefully not have to seek accommodation elsewhere, as the property contained two other buildings that could be made habitable. He was busy preparing one of those buildings for his family Monday morning.

An early morning structure fire on Monday, December 9, also left two Cawston renters homeless.

No one was hurt in the blaze, which gutted a home on Ferko Road. The fire broke out around midnight Monday morning.  It appears at this time that the fire began in the chimney, but this has yet to be officially determined.

Keremeos firefighters spent six hours battling the stubborn blaze, which took place in minus 15 degree Celsius temperatures. Firefighters were hampered by  a lack of hydrants in the area and cold temperatures, which caused icy conditions underfoot.

“The roof collapsed early on, restricting us to an external attack,” said Keremeos Fire Chief Jordy Bosscha, “until we could ensure floor stability, we were restricted to an external attack.”

 

Emergency Social Services was on scene during the incident. The displaced tenants spent the night at nearby relations before ESS found further accommodations for them at a motel in Penticton.

 

 

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