A huge fire in North Surrey left more than 140 people homeless as it rapidly tore through an apartment building on the weekend.
Vinyl siding and soffits are believed to be the reason the building burned so quickly.
At about 10:40 p.m. Saturday (Aug20), firefighters were called to a four-alarm blaze at 121A Street and 82 Avenue, and on arrival, they found it was quickly spreading to the roof.
It was initially a two-alarm blaze, involving five fire trucks, but was quickly upgraded to a four-alarm fire, involving nine trucks.
Three dozen firefighters and a command staff of seven set up to battle the blaze, but it proved to be a difficult fire.
“The first-in crews went up to the fourth floor, and pulled ceilings,” said Surrey Fire Assistant Chief Brian Woznikoski
No injuries were reported. “When they did that, they could see fire right throughout the attic.”
Fire crews evacuated the building, just as the blaze started burning through the roof.
“So it became defensive fairly quickly,” he said.
He said there was no problem with the delivery of water, except each of the three ladder trucks had to hook into a separate water grid to ensure no problems occurred.
And he said there were enough fire personnel at the site.
“We don’t generally go above a third alarm,” Woznikoski said. “By (going to fourth alarm), it helped us manage this incident.”
More than 140 residents were evacuated from the 77-unit building. Those in need of shelter were taken to nearby Newton Seniors Centre.
Surrey’s General Manager of Parks, Recreation and Culture, Laurie Cavan said the city’s Emergency Social Services (ESS) processed 125 adults, 16 children and 13 pets evacuated from their homes after the fire.
The ESS was developed in the 1990s, and kicks into place when more than five families are disrupted.
The program is well-rehearsed, and is fully paid for by the Provincial Emergency Preparedness fund.
Cavan said all of the families who need housing have been relocated to hotels. The city will work with them to find permanent housing.
It’s expected some people (the number isn’t known yet) are on holiday and don’t know they’re home burned down.
By Sunday morning, the majority fire was extinguished and crews were ensuring all hot spots were put out.
Several pets believed to have perished in the fire were found alive, including a cat, a bunny and a bird.
The exact cause of the fire is not known, however, firefighters do not consider it suspicious.
Woznikoski said the building was equipped with fire sprinklers, but there were none where they were critically needed.
It’s believed the fire started on one of the balconies, where it lit up the vinyl soffits and siding.
The B.C. Building Code does not require exterior sprinklers, and Woznikoski said it would be hugely helpful.
“We would like to see some kind of sprinkler system mandated in the soffit area,” Woznikoski said. “The vinyl siding and vinyl soffits, they go very quickly.”
This is not the first time this year Surrey Fire has had to fight fires that involved soffits and siding.
Anyone who hasn’t been processed by the city, or would like to know how they can help, can find full details on the city’s website at this address: http://surrey.ca/city-government/17717.aspx