It’s all gone.
The Red Bridge Pub, the Keremeos Hotel Liquor Store and the Seventh Street Diner were destroyed by fire in Keremeos on Monday morning, July 14.
The Keremeos and District Volunteer Fire Department was called to the scene at approximately 8:20 a.m.
“I could see a red glow inside the main front door”(of the bar) said Fire Chief Jordy Bosscha, who arrived on scene initially. He said the fire hadn’t yet breached the building at that point, but it appeared obvious to him that the inside had been involved for some time.
He also checked the front door of the Seventh Street Diner, in the same building, but found it to be cold at that time.
The main body of the fire department arrived on scene within minutes, to find the fire had broken out of the building and was spreading with ferocious speed down the front of the building.
Several hose lines, including the department’s engine mounted monitor was brought to bear immediately, but there was no stopping the flames that started rolling out of the front windows. The initial attack slowed the visible flames along the front of the building but did nothing to quench the inferno burning inside.
Mutual aid was called immediately, with fire crews arriving from Kaleden and Osoyoos. Together they battled the flames for nearly four hours, but in spite of their efforts, the building was completely gutted.
An excavator was brought in around mid-morning to take walls down and allow firefighters better access. Their progress was hampered by the shear severity of the blaze, which prevented an interior attack. Fears of collapsing walls and roofs meant firefighters had to keep back, which also limited the reach of their hose streams.
By noon hour there was little remained of the historic building but a sprawling pile of rubble.
Dozens of residents gathered on Seventh and on Veterans Avenue to watch the conflagration. Police cordoned off Seventh Street at Seventh Avenue as well as the back alleys south of Seventh Avenue.
Power was cut to a portion of the downtown section of Keremeos at 9:17 a.m., leaving a number of downtown businesses in the dark until early afternoon.
Keremeos Hotel Liquor Store manager Laurel Dierdorff wept along with other employees of the businessess as they watched their livelihood go up in flames.
“A lot of sweat and hard work went into that building,” an emotional Dierdorf said Monday afternoon as she watched firefighters cool the wreckage while an excavator tore apart what remained of the building.
“We’re all devastated.”
It’s the end of an era,” said Bill Irvine, who owned the building.
“It was built in 1906 – just about everyone who ever lived in Keremeos, or who passed through the village can remember an experience in there.”
“We put a lot into the building to make sure it was up to standards and safe,” Irvine said. Neither he nor Dierdorf could say how it might have started.
Twenty employees have lost their place of employment as a result of the fire, Irvine said, noting three businesses were destroyed. The building was insured, and he expressed a desire to rebuild and get back to business as soon as possible.
“You wake up in the morning, thinking it’s going to be a normal day,” he said, “but you never know what’s going to happen.”
The Keremeos Hotel was one of the village’s oldest and most historic buildings. Over the years it has been extensively renovated.
Speculation swirled on the streets of Keremeos Monday afternoon as to the fire’s cause, with several residents blaming it on lightning. Around the time the fire was noticed, there were several lightning strikes in the Keremeos and Cawston area. One strike resulted in a grass fire west of Keremeos.
The fire’s cause is currently under investigation.