Fire investigators were on the scene Wednesday morning looking for clues into what may have ignited a Peachland house fire Tuesday night.
Chris Schiebelbein was in bed with his wife at 10:30 p.m. when they heard several explosions next door on Vicary Road. He got up and ran over to investigate, wearing only his underwear in the sub-zero weather.
"My wife . . . jumped down into their back yard to try to grab their dogs. It was a little embarrassing. Luckily, they
didn't have cameras on me as I was running around in my gonch.
"It was freaky. I'd never seen a fire like that up close before."
The blaze broke out in the garage, sparking numerous explosions heard around the neighbourhood. The woman living there noticed the flames, called 911 and got out safely. Her husband was out of town, said Chief Dennis Craig of Peachland Fire and Rescue.
The flames quickly spread to the roof of the attached house and extended through the attic. The homeowner sought shelter beside a motor home parked by the home.
Firefighters arrived quickly, neighbours said, but the garage and house were already ablaze.
"It was very fast," said Kari Kallen, who was putting her daughter to bed in their home on Hackett Road when she heard the explosions. "The whole top floor and the whole roof were fully in flames."
The noises were caused by heat blowing up the propane tanks, ammunition and aerosol cans stored in the garage. The garage trusses collapsed on a Mercedes SL with a retractable hardtop roof. A Chevy Avalanche SUV parked close to the double garage was also destroyed.
Firefighters recommend against storing propane tanks inside a home or garage.
"Propane tanks are a big concern for our safety," said Craig.
Crews used their hoses to protect the motor home parked in the driveway. It was still intact Wednesday and someone started the motor easily.
The two-level house with a view of Okanagan Lake, however, is a total loss, said Craig. Firefighters spent half an hour extinguishing the flames. The roof collapsed on itself, causing severe damage to the top floor. The basement area had extensive water damage.
An investigator combed through the charred remains and focused on the garage area Wednesday. The damage was so severe, he was unable to pinpoint a cause. Police and fire officials don't believe someone started it deliberately, Craig said.
The house, estimated to be 3,000 square feet, was insured. The couple living at 5857 Vicary Rd. and their two dogs are now staying with family.
The fire brought back painful memories for Kallen's 10-year-old daughter. She was staying with her dad in the Smith Creek area of West Kelowna last month when their cedar hedge caught fire, possibly by a cigarette tossed along a public walkway.
"She's very scared of things like that," said Kallen. "When (Tuesday's) fire started, she was very worried that people were in the house. It was pretty scary."