From flames to hantavirus in Kamloops

Western Canada Theatre has looked after — and used — the heritage-designated B.C. Sheep Breeders barn on Lorne Street for years, but now must vacate the premises.

Blame it on the mice.

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WCT general manager Lori Marchand said they always knew there were a few of the rodents calling the historical building home, sharing the space with costumes, props and sets from past theatrical productions.

An April fire, however, revealed not only the need for a sprinkler system in the old building, but the fact there were deer mice, some of them carrying hantavirus, a rare but serious lung disease that can infect people who breathe in the viral particles.

"The fire, in a lot of ways, was a blessing in disguise," Marchand said, "and we're so grateful to the Society of Creative Anachronism, who were in our parking lot [at Pavilion Theatre, across the road from the heritage building] and saw the fire and called 911."

That call saved the building, but sparked a visit from the fire marshal's office and a list of changes that need to be made.

Marchand said WCT had passed every other fire-marshal inspection before the fire, which caused some damage to the building exterior.

Barbara Berger, the city's arts, cultural and heritage manager, said the lease with WCT gave the theatre free use of the building, with the provision the theatre be responsible for its upkeep.

Berger said she, Marchand and WCT artistic director Daryl Cloran have been meeting to find a new storage area, with a couple of locations now being considered.

"Once we have completed the cleaning and sorting, a new sprinkler-fire suppression system needs to be installed," Berger said.

The goal is to have the contents cleaned, sorted and off-site before the upcoming theatre season.

Marchand said WCT has looked after the building's maintenance since the agreement with the city was struck.

"But, this is no longer a case of maintenance. It's almost a restoration now."

She praised the city for partnering with WCT, noting the theatre continues to struggle for money and recently started repairs to the roof at Pavilion Theatre, one of several projects being paid for through a $100,000 loan from the city.

© Kamloops This Week



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