Investigators hope to know Friday whether the latest major fire to hit the Vernon area is connected to the arson spree that has bedevilled the city since May.

The blaze destroyed a garage, three vehicles, a boat, several utility trailers and 180 large hay bales early Thursday morning. The noise it made awoke a woman about

4:20 a.m. She was staying with her two dogs in her travel trailer.

“Fortunately, she heard some popping noise. She looked outside and noticed that the garage area, which was just to the west of her trailer, was aglow,” said Deputy Chief Jack Blair of Vernon Fire and Rescue.

The middle-aged woman, visiting from Osoyoos, fled the seven-metre trailer with her dogs right away, but lost most of her possessions in the fire. She’d parked her truck, where she’d left her passport, out of danger. The flames burned the keys to the vehicle.

Despite the loss, she’s lucky she got out unscathed, Blair said.

“She could have succumbed very easily. The fire was going pretty good. Vehicle fires and things like that have a tendency to get going and with lots of heat.”

The woman parked her trailer about 15 metres from the garage, built on an acreage in the 1000 block of Pottery Road. It’s not clear where the fire started, but it quickly enveloped the circular hay bales stacked just outside the garage.

That created a new challenge for firefighters. They brought in two ladder trucks and aimed water cannons at the flames from above.

“The guys had to direct their attention to a . . . whole bunch of bales that are smouldering and flaming,” Blair said.

“We had to get a couple of excavators to dismantle the bales so we could break them down and hose them off good, because the last thing we want is a continuation of that fire in these dry conditions.”

Destroyed were a late-model pickup, a new motorcycle, the travel trailer, a four-metre boat, the hay, garage, a workshop and numerous tools, including a compressor.

The renters were sleeping in a house 50 metres away and were unhurt. They had no livestock.

It’s possible spontaneous combustion ignited the hay, but investigators are leaning toward the interior of the garage as the source of the fire, Blair said.

“We’re looking more toward the building . . . (based on) the direction and first reports of the fire from the (crews) first on scene.”

Vernon residents are on edge after at least one arsonist has torched Dumpsters, vehicles, a 500-person grandstand and at least 1,500 apple bins in recent months. The woman sleeping in the trailer heard nothing strange before Thursday’s fire, and her dogs never barked, Blair said.

Investigators believe they’ve pinpointed the origin, but are withholding it until they dig up more evidence. Blair couldn’t say Thursday whether it was deliberately set.

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