Fire gutted the Riverbed Bistro in the early hours of Monday

Suspicious fire guts vacant restaurant

A suspicious fire gutted the vacant Riverbed Bistro in Keremeos. Firefighters have attended the business three times in four years.

It’s unclear where an investigation

into a fire that destroyed a vacant

building that housed a restaurant and

guest suites will lead.

The early morning blaze

Monday that completely destroyed

the Riverbed Bistro on 6th Avenue

marks the third time firefighters have

attended that location in four years.

Cpl. Sean Hall from the Keremeos

detachment said police are deeming

the fire suspicious.

“We are considering the fire suspicious

and are investigating,” he wrote

in an email to the Review Monday

afternoon.

The scene of the fire at 630- 6th

Avenue was left unsecured overnight

Monday. All that prevents people

from accessing the site is plastic

red tape that reads, “Danger Do Not

Enter.”

As listed in the Keremeos tax roll,

the owner of the property is numbered

company 0961380 BC Ltd.

The numbered company was incorporated

in February 2013.

Keremeos Fire Chief Jordy

Bosscha said the structure, which is

located across the street from the fire

hall, had to be taken down with an

excavator for safety reasons and so

volunteer crews were not on scene all

day Monday dousing hot spots.

In addition to being chief of the

fire department Bosscha is also the

local representative of the Office of

the Fire Commissioner.

He does not possess equipment

to complete testing at the site and

doesn’t think any will be done

unless an insurance claim is made.

It’s unknown if the current owner

has insurance. Testing might also be

undertaken pending police investigation.

“Being as there is no security on

scene, it’s not secure, there would be

no value in anything found there now.

Who knows who’s been at the site

doing what overnight,” he said.

The fire was called in at about

3:30 a.m. No injuries were reported.

It’s been reported that neighbours

heard glass smashing at the site several

hours earlier.

“It’s unfortunate. I think it was

burning for quite sometime,” he said.

When Keremeos firefighters

arrived on scene heavy black smoke

was billowing out of the building on

the upper and lower floor.

“Within minutes after we arrived

on scene the second floor exploded

into flames. About a half hour after

first arriving the roof and the second

floor collapsed,” he said.

After gearing up and hustling

across the street, Bosscha said he

knew the building was not safe to

enter and that crews would be working

to keep neighbouring properties

safe and get the fire out as soon as

possible.

Fifteen members of the Keremeos

department battled the blaze. Four

members of the Kaleden fire department

attended under the mutual aid

agreement. The fire was deemed out

at about 7:30 a.m.

“Special thanks to Kaleden Fire

Department, Fortis Power, Fortis

Gas, RCMP and BCAS for their

quick response and assistance,”

Bosscha said.

The Riverbed Bistro has been

burned by fire before.

A failed attempt to set the building

on fire occurred in May 2011 when

former owner Inderjit Chema used a

small jerry can to dump $10 worth of

gas on the walls of the building and

threatened to light it up.

Although unsuccessful Chema

was still charged with arson along

with damage to own property, assault

and uttering threats.

He received a suspended sentence

and 18 months strict probation. Last

reported Chema was running a restaurant

with his wife in Surrey. Almost

three years later on February 1, 2014

a fire ripped through the top floor of

the building. That fire was deemed

suspicious but no charges were ever

laid. The facade of the second floor

was eventually rebuilt in spring 2014

but the business remained unopened

until Monday’s fire completely destroyed the building.

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