Iconic boat destroyed by fire

Published on April 1, 2021 by David Wylie

A longtime Lake Country resident surveys the destruction of an iconic boat that has stood for decades at the side of Highway 97. Photo: David Wylie/Okanagan Journal

Fire destroyed a part of Okanagan history overnight.

The Orchard City II tug boat, which has stood for years beside Highway 97 at Commonwealth Road on the border of Lake Country and Kelowna, has been a daily sight for commuters.

Only its charred shell remains.

Lake Country’s director of protective services Steve Windsor says a BC Ambulance crew driving past saw the flicker of fire and called for help.

“They were driving by and saw what they thought was a small fire on the boat. They called 911 then tried putting it out with a fire extinguisher,” he tells the Journal.

However, the fire was burning strong inside the boat.

By the time Lake Country firefighters arrived, the boat was completely engulfed.

There are no fire hydrants, so firefighters had to truck water to the scene.

“It’s a heavy-timber boat and the top deck had actually collapsed inside to the bottom of the boat, so it was very difficult to try and put the fire out. It took us a long time and we ended up having to bring an excavator in to pull apart the boat. It was demolished.”

The Kelowna Fire Department is leading the investigation and may determine a cause as early as today.

The boat has been around more than a century in the Okanagan, commissioned in 1903 and used to cart logs across Okanagan Lake.

It sank around 1950 after a storm.

In the ealy ’80s it was pulled from the water and placed on cement blocks to point to way to the Holiday Park Resort.

Check these photos out from the Old Kelowna Facebook group:

Jeff Vouladakis shared these two photos of the boat (the Orchard City II built in 1902) that now sits at the entrance of the Holiday Park Resort in Winfield. In the early 1900’s the historic Orchard City II ran charters and worked for sawmills on Okanagan Lake. The boat sank during a storm in 1948 and remained at the bottom of the lake for 30 years. It was moved to Holiday Park sometime around 1983.