February 18, 2015 - 7:44 PM
ENDERBY - Eleven people, including as many as four children, have been displaced after authorities issued a do not occupy order on the building.
Kevin Alstad, local assistant to the Fire Commissioner for the City of Enderby, described the building as “a hazard requiring the immediate removal of the occupants for their own safety.”
In conjunction with the Regional District of the North Okanagan Building Inspector, an Order to Evacuate and a Do Not Occupy order were posted for the boarding portion of the building at 509 Mill Ave.
During a joint fire and building inspection of the property, following complaints of a boarding use occurring in contravention of the City of Enderby’s zoning bylaw, unsafe conditions were discovered. These conditions placed occupants – some of whom are very vulnerable – in significant danger, according to a release from the City of Enderby.
City of Enderby Chief Administrative Officer Tate Bengtson said the decision was difficult, but necessary.
“It involved weighing a potential loss of life due to unsafe conditions against displacing people from their home. The risk of a loss of life was our overriding concern. However, we worked very hard to ensure that an interagency social support team was available on-site to help the occupants transition into safe living conditions,” Bengston said.
The City of Enderby is working with the Enderby and District Community Resource Centre, the Ministry of Children and Families and Interior Health to ensure the displaced occupants have access to social support to help transition them into safe living conditions. Other organizations were also brought in, including the Red Cross and Salvation Army.
Authorities say the boarding portion of the building has no fire separation between any of the rooms, between the rooms and the hallway corridor, or between the sleeping area and the retail use occurring at the front of the building. There are no windows to provide a means of escape if a fire were to occur and there is no fire alarm system and no smoke alarms in the sleeping rooms. Batteries were removed from the smoke alarms that were in place. Combustible materials were piled inside of the building. Roof leakage and mould growth were observed. The ceiling of the basement and crawl space had no fire protective finish. Ceiling tiles had been removed so that additional combustible materials could be stored in ceiling spaces. Various ignition sources were observed on the premises. The conditions in the premises were in an overall unsanitary state, according to the city.
During the inspection of the basement, a strong chemical odour was also detected. The Vernon Fire Rescue Hazardous Materials Response Team was brought in to investigate while the evacuation of the premises was occurring. Subsequent to the Hazardous Materials Response Team’s investigation, the RCMP have taken control of the scene.
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