One feared dead in Langley City seniors apartment fire

Fire crews were on scene through the early morning hours at the complex.

One resident of the Birch apartment in Langley City was killed by a fire early Wednesday morning.

Doug was awake when he heard the alarm sound and a loud voice come over the security system advising there was a fire in his downtown Langley apartment building just around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.

But he wasn’t able to get out on his own steam – he usually uses a scooter to get around – so a neighbour helped him to a plastic garden chair outside his apartment building, where he watched quietly as firefighters, police, and other emergency personal rushed to the scene and fought to extinguish a fire that apparently started in the third-floor of his Birch apartments – one of three apartment complexes that make up the Lions Senior Citizen housing in the 5500 block of 203rd Street.

Fellow tenant Sandy has lived on the second floor of the Birch complex for the past eight years.

She was sound asleep when she heard the voice come over the security system telling her there was a fire and to get out of the building.

Sandy couldn’t believe, as she moved to the centre courtyard for the housing project, the amount of smoke billowing from a top floor apartment. It was frightening, she admitted.

A caretaker, who had heard the alarm, went outside to look and quickly spotted its origin. Realizing the potential danger to the tenants, he told police that he ran through the building banging on doors. Many residents, he said didn’t seen to want to leave.

Jennie has been a resident in the building, on the first floor, for 13 years and fears she would have slept through the alarm if it wasn’t for a house guest, Marg, who awoke with a fright.

“I sat straight up and ran into Jennie’s room, screaming. I just started shaking her,” she recounted.

She’d lived through a fire in a nearby Langley City apartment a few years ago, and was quick to throw on some clothes, grab her coat, and head for the door.

Jennie was a little more lackadaisical.

“The alarms goes off all the time… I thought it was just another false alarm,” she said.

So, Jennie walked to the window and looked out, expecting to see fire trucks in the courtyard if there was anything serious. When she didn’t see any emergency vehicles, it helped reassure her that they were fine.

It was another matter when she looked out in her hallway and saw fellow residents making a mad dash for the exit doors.

That sparked her to action, and she, too, scrambled to get some clothes on, find a warm jacket, and get out with her house guest.

“There wasn’t time to do anything else,” Jennie said, noting police were knocking on her door moments later as she prepared to leave.

Meanwhile, across the yard, in another Lions building called The Elm, Peter Dowler was spurred to action when he heard yelling outside.

“I heard someone shouting and I went out on my balcony, and I saw the sparks and flames going straight up from the roof – directly across from my building – and I thought I better first phone the fire department, and then grab my computer, my cell, and my coat and get out. And shut all the windows and doors, like we’re taught to in school.”

On his way out, he started banging on neighbours’ doors, fearful the fire could spread from one building to the other easily.

“I got as many as I could out,” Dowler said.

The call came in some time around 1 a.m., Langley City fire quickly calling for assistance from their neighbours at the Langley Township fire department.

As the chaos of the early morning blaze began to subside, paramedics came to lend Doug a hand, moving him and fellow residents like Sandy into the main Lions building, where they could get warm and stay safe until they find out the fate of their homes.

It appears the fire has been contained to just one or two apartments in the building, and at least for now, that dozens have been forced from their homes.

Reports are being circulated that one person has died in the early morning blaze, but Langley RCMP were referring all calls to the Langley City fire department. And there was no answer at the fire hall.

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