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Blaze leaves Kin track in rubble
A roaring fire has complicated the future of Vernon’s Kin Race Track.
Flames consumed most of the track’s grandstand Wednesday night, creating a new challenge for the Okanagan Equestrian Society, which has been fighting a legal battle to maintain access to the site.
“We will discuss our various options,” said Ed Woolley, society spokesperson, adding that the group’s executive will meet next week and the insurance policy is being reviewed.
“If we rebuild, is it at the same spot or of the same nature (of structure)? I can’t speculate on what options we will go with because I don’t know what our options are.”
It was just on Tuesday that the society had announced cancellation of Vernon Racing Days for the summer because electrical upgrades ordered by the B.C. Safety Authority to the grandstand were too costly. The society stated it wanted to focus on a resolution to the ongoing dispute with the City of Vernon and the Regional District of North Okanagan to use the property.
Investigators aren’t linking the fire cause to the legal wranglings.
“It has a political past and issues that way but there’s no hard evidence,” said Lawrie Skolrood, Vernon deputy fire chief, adding that he needs to confirm if grandstand electricity was turned off.
The police admit they are aware of the court case involving the race track.
“All of those things will tie together in the investigation,” said Gord Molendyk, RCMP spokesperson.
However, investigators are trying to determine if the blaze is the latest in the recent rash of arsons in the area.
“We will be looking at that and working with the RCMP,” said Jack Blair, deputy fire chief.
B.C. Safety Authority staff were on scene to consider possible non-suspicious causes.
Public assistance is being sought as part of the investigation.
“We know there were a number of witnesses who saw the fire. If they have video or copies of photos, we’d like to see them,” said Molendyk.
“It would help us identify where the fire started. We’d like to get to the bottom of the fire.”
The exact age of the grandstand is not known but society members believe it was constructed between the 1960s and 1980s.
“It was old but it wasn’t heritage,” said Woolley.
There was little firefighters could do to save the structure from the flames.
“It was so far advanced when the crews got here. They were looking at exposures and trying to contain the fire,” said Skolrood.
When asked if the building will be demolished, Skolrood said, “There’s no doubt in my mind it will. There’s not much left.”
The City of Vernon owns the race track property, but maintenance of the grandstand has been the society’s responsibility.
“Provided the site is safe to the public and users, I see no reason why the loss of the grandstand would void the existing contract with the city,” said Will Pearce, the city’s chief administrative officer.
“The city had advised the society that it may wish to conduct a professional assessment on the structural condition before further public use. In previous discussions with the society, the city was advised that if the grandstand was not usable, the society would make arrangements for portable seating stands.”
Pearce says there’s no clause in the original agreement between the society and the city that requires a grandstand.