By Kristian Rasmussen
An early morning blaze in the 800 block of Baker Street in Cranbrook on Tuesday claimed four buildings and forced a rooftop evacuation of two residents.
A routine police patrol downtown led to the discovery of smoke billowing from behind 806 Baker Street at around 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 24th, Sergeant Laurie Jalbert of the Cranbrook RCMP reported.
“The police officers were not able to gain access to the building and were driven back by erupting flames, but they were successful in making enough noise to wake the only two known occupants of the building,” Sgt. Jalbert said.
After waking the sleeping residents, the fire department was able to make a rooftop rescue.
The buildings located between Cranbrook Photo and The Choice skateboard shop were destroyed, including OJ’s Antiques. Fire crews that attended the scene were able to minimize damage to both Cranbrook Photo and The Choice.
Though there were no reported injuries in the blaze, the effects of the fire were still obvious by Tuesday afternoon, said Dave Sutherland, who attended the scene.
“The fire was smoldering and there was still one fire truck,” he said.
“They had the road blocked off in either direction. By the time I got there, there was a constant stream of 10 to 15 onlookers.”
Jackie Lysak, Invermere Visitor Centre manager, has a personal connection to the crippling blaze. Ms. Lysak was working on a marketing relationship with business owner, Petra Ware, of Petra Naturally, which was largely destroyed in the fire.
“Everything is gone and they have no insurance,” Ms. Lysak said.
The valley local has had to work with a stream of misinformation about her friend and business partner since the blaze began, she reported.
“There was somebody saying that several people were hurt, several evacuated, and then somebody on Facebook had said that one person had died …When you hear someone has died it becomes really tough.”
The visitor centre manager is still dealing with the gravity of the situation.
“It is horrible to think that not only were there people living there that could have died easily, these are also livelihoods.
“I remember thinking that it’s horrible, yes, but at least you have the insurance to fall back on. Now what?”
Ms. Lysak finds it hard to fathom what effect a similar fire would have in the Invermere area.
“It would be just as if we lost Village Arts and Gerry’s Gelati. If those burned with Thredz, across the street, it would be drastic for our community.”
Cranbrook RCMP is investigating the blaze.