Canada

Fire in downtown Vancouver: Everyone thought they were responsible

Everyone living in a one-room hotel is believed to have been reported to be the second fire in a building in Vancouver’s Gastown neighborhood in days.

The mayor and chief of the Vancouver Fire Department provided up-to-date information on the fire that broke out Monday at the Winters Hotel, a four-story heritage building on Abbott Street. Sixty firefighters were called to the fire with four alarms, which took about 12 hours to put out.

Dozens of people living in the SRO were displaced and six businesses in the building were affected. Seven businesses in other buildings were affected by road closures.

Calling it a “devastating fire,” Mayor Kennedy Stewart said during the update that the building had “significant damage” and was likely to be demolished.

Stewart said Abbott Street has remained closed since Tuesday and fences are being erected to hold the collapse zone in case the building is demolished.

“It was a situation for all hands on deck, and I’m extremely proud of the city’s response,” Stewart said.

INVESTIGATION IN PROGRESS

Fire chief Karen Fry said during the update that the flames were “quite spectacular”.

“The fire spread quickly, spreading through many empty spaces, ceilings, walls and floors,” she said, adding that crews were focused on those who needed immediate rescue when they arrived.

The investigation into the causes of the fire continues, but so far there is no evidence that it was arson and it is assumed that the fire broke out on the second floor.

Fry confirmed that fire crews were called to the same building on Friday because of an accidental fire. The fire was contained in one unit, Fry said, adding that a “compliance order” had been issued at the time. Monday’s fire did not start in the same room as Friday’s.

The last full fire inspection of the building was completed in September and then the building was assessed as satisfactory. Like all SROs in the city, the building is a “sprinkler building,” Fry said. It is not known if the smoke alarms went off on Monday, but Fry said her “expectation” would be part of the investigation.

REPORTING RESIDENTS FOR

Ahead of the press conference, Janice Abbott, chief executive of the non-profit Atira Women’s Resource Society, which runs the SRO, which occupied the top floors of the building, told CTV News Vancouver that she believed “all tenants were counted.”

Authorities said all but one resident were localized. It is believed that the last resident was staying with relatives. All staff and contractors are also considered safe, but no update has been provided for guests or pets who may have been in the SRO at the time.

“This building is home to some of our most valuable residents in our city and the impact on them will be very traumatic,” Fry said. “Our hearts are with everyone affected, not just residents but business.”

Five people were taken to hospital, but only two remain and are in stable condition. Six people needed rescue, Fry said.

“Our fire brigades, I am extremely proud of the work they have done,” Fry said, calling their efforts “brave” and “heroic.”

“A resident jumped from the top floor of the building and was located in the back of the building in a really dangerous place.”

As 71 residents were displaced, employees were left to struggle to find temporary housing for SRO residents. A second social housing building in the area also cannot be occupied due to heavy smoke damage and proximity to the collapse area, officials said. Stewart said the city is working with BC Housing to find emergency shelter for all affected residents. We hope that they will be in permanent residence in the coming days.

Stewart said many of the city’s SROs “are not built for current use”, saying the buildings are old and intended for temporary accommodation. In some cases, they are built for loggers who come to downtown Vancouver looking for a short stay before returning to work.

“Now that we have people who live in these buildings all the time and they’ve had a good time,” Stewart said. “The loss of 150 SRO rooms and how to get these people back on their feet in a safe, warm and dry home is a huge challenge.”