July 14, 2013 - 4:28 PM
KELOWNA - A cigarette was found to be the accidental cause of an apartment fire that demolished two suites, sent two people to the hospital from smoke inhalation and left around 80 residents temporarily homeless this weekend.
Fire department and Emergency Social Services met with residents at the Salvation Army church on Sutherland Road this afternoon to explain the extent of the damage and the interim compensation to be provided.
Fire Department deputy chief Jason Brolund says all the residents were evacuated from the 40-unit building yesterday. Today some found out they won't be going back.
“Some of them will not be going back into the building, they'll need to move out,” he says.
There are 24 suites that should be ready for occupation in a few days once power and water is restored to the building. But another 16 suites sustained severe smoke damage and will need extensive renovations.
All the residents have been given three nights in a hotel, money for food and provisions, and the building's owner is looking for vacant suites at other properties to help relocate some of the evacuees.
“The building owner has committed to work with all the tenants...he owns several buildings and has managed to pull together vacancies,” Brolund says.
Nathan Adley says he was asleep when his wife woke him up. At first he wasn't concerned by the fire alarm.
“Those alarms go off a couple times a month...it's like crying wolf right? So you go back to bed.”
By the time he woke up again, the fire had already been burning for half an hour.
“My wife looked out the window and she's like, 'people are running with their animals' and I'm like, okay, now it's go time,” Adley says.
He grabbed his five month-old baby and ran.
“I had to run through black billowing smoke with my infant in my hands. The smoke was so thick.”
With the only breathable air a couple feet from the floor he says, “I just held her (the baby) down by the ground when I ran through it (the smoke) so she wouldn't breath it in.”
Brolund says residents of the 24 least-affected suites will have five minutes today to go in and retrieve some of their belongings. But for the other 16 they won't be able to in until Tuesday.
Adley and his neighbour Cole Mitchell are among those who can continue living in their suites - but they're not planning on staying.
“We just can't go back...it's not safe,” Mitchell says. With his wife nine-months pregnant he's concerned about the smoke damage.
“It was on the third floor – the lady that went in there, she said it's bad,” he says.
Adley and Mitchell are now considering sharing a rental home.
Emergency Social Services is encouraging residents to start preparing for the long term. Brolund says unfortunately some of the residents do not have content insurance.
"It's been a mix," he says.
“If you're a renter we encourage you to do the research before you make a decision if you're going to insure or not...definitely in situations like this people who are insured have a better chance at recovery."
To contact the reporter for this story, email Julie Whittet at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250) 718-0428.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013