Historic Kelowna residence severely broken in unintended fireplace: Fireplace officers

A historic Kelowna home suffered “extreme damage” Thursday night when a roof fire grew out of control.

The blaze that fire officials have now deemed accidental in nature broke out at around 7:30 pm inside a house in the 1900 block of McDougall Street. When firefighters arrived, they could see flames shooting from the roof.

“It was confirmed by the homeowner that no one was inside the structure. He was alerted to the fire by an activated smoke alarm and was able to get out safely,” John Kelly, Kelowna fire department’s platoon captain, said.

The damage, which is considered to be significant, extends beyond the house itself, however, due to its place in the city’s history.

“It’s very sad and very shocking to see yet another heritage building being lost to fire in Kelowna,” Peter Chataway, a Kelowna heritage advocate said.

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“I feel badly for the owner. It’s a beautiful and important building and a very important family to Kelowna’s history.”

The good news, Chataway said is that structural damage can always be repaired and he hopes that is the direction that’s taken, so the house can continue to stand for a long time in the future.

The Jennens House is listed on the City of Kelowna’s heritage register.

It’s described by the city as “a large two-and-one-half-storey wood-frame British Arts and Crafts-style residence with stucco cladding and half-timbered detail.”

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“The house is of heritage significance for its association with the Jennens family, reflecting their role in the economic and social history of Kelowna. The Jennens family commissioned the house in 1930, and continue to own and occupy it. Oliver Jennens (1890-1940) was a noted local businessman associated with BC Growers Ltd., and with BC Orchards of which he was managing director from 1927 to the late 1930s,” the City of Kelowna said in its write-up.

“His son, Eric Gordon Jennens, is remembered for building a full-size Viking ship with which he attempted to replicate Leif Erikson’s late-tenth-century voyage to North America. Eric Jennens is also remembered for developing a harvester for Eurasian water milfoil weed (an invasive, non-native aquatic species.”

The City of Kelowna said in its description that the house is significant as a demonstration of the economic activity and wealth of Kelowna during the 1920s and 1930s when the fruit industry became the driving economic engine of the area.

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“Many of those involved in this business, such as the initial owner of this house, could afford to build grand houses on large estate properties, even at a time of country-wide depression. The Jennens House forms part of an assemblage of stately homes on the lakefront, and demonstrates the importance of Kelowna residents have placed on Okanagan Lake and on the lifestyle and recreation it provides,”

Click to play video: 'Kelowna Fire Department gives virtual tour'

Kelowna Fire Department gives virtual tour

“The owner is now in the care of Emergency Support Services. A crew of five stayed on scene all night to monitor flare-ups in the attic and roof area. We would like to remind the public that working smoke alarms do save lives.”

KFD responded with four engines, a rescue unit, a command vehicle, ladder truck and 18 personnel.

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