Fire ripped through the four-storey Paddington Station condominium complex on 201A Street near 56 Avenue in Langley City Sunday morning, leaving more than 100 people homeless.
Paddington Station resident Arron MacDonald, who works a night shift, was home sleeping when the fire alarm went off around 10 a.m.
“I looked out in the hall- way, and I saw someone yelling, ‘get out of the building, get out of the building,’” MacDonald told the Times.
“By the time I got across the street, the smoke was billowing. I saw flames 10 minutes later.”
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Ten trucks and more than 50 firefighters from the City and Township fought to control the blaze all day.
Two firefighters were treated for smoke inhalation and one firefighter suffered minor injuries when he was hit in the head by a fire hose.
City fire chief Rory Thompson said one elderly resident who didn’t leave his fourth-floor unit had to be rescued by ladder from their balcony.
As the man was brought out, “I could see the entire ceiling of that suite on fire” Thompson said.
The rescued resident was transported to hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation.
Thompson said while the exact cause of the fire is still under investigation, it appears it may have started on a balcony and spread to the attic.
While the building had sprinklers, there were none on the balconies or in the attic because the current provincial building code regulations do not require them in four-storey wood-frame buildings.
Under those circumstances a fire can spread from the balcony to the roof in “three to five minutes” Thompson told City Council Monday night.
“We definitely advocate greater application of sprinklers,” Thompson said.
Mayor Ted Schaffer expressed sympathy on behalf of council and said the City would do everything it could to help.
“I just feel so bad for the residents,” Schaffer said.
The Douglas Park recreation centre was opened up to accommodate people displaced by the blaze and Emergency Services staff were called in.
Evacuees who didn’t have accommodation with friends or family were transported to local hotels by the City.
A Cloverdale family was among the many Good Samaritans who tried to help.
Dad, Aaron Fell, said they were planning to go sledding when 11-year-old John and 14-year-old Ashley heard the news as they were driving by and decided they ought to do something.
“We realized we should probably go help,” Ashley said.
“I realized that we could go to (the nearby) Army and Navy to get blankets and hand warmers,” John said.
Aaron said they bought as many as they could afford and handed them out at the scene of the fire.
“I’m pretty proud of my kids today,” he said.
He said many people used them to keep their pets warm.
“(There were) a lot of shivering dogs,” Fell said (more in video below).
Neighbouring buildings to the north had to be evacuated as well.
Natasha Files, who lives on the ground floor of another building in the complex, didn’t realize anything was amiss until she tried to drive out of the underground parkade.
“A fireman told me I couldn’t leave … and I looked up and there was smoke and billowing flames,” Files said.
She said her building has suffered “quite a bit” of smoke damage, while it appears the other is a write-off.
“It looks like the entire building is going to be lost, unfortunately.”
The return of residents to the undamaged buildings was delayed because the electrical and fire alarm systems were inter-connected and had to be separated before occupants could come back.
Public Service Announcement: Paddington Station Evacuee Updatehttps://t.co/RN412nCXYB
— City of Langley (@CityofLangley) December 12, 2016
Coast Mountain Bus Lines provided comfort buses for the people evacuated from the building.
Surrey RCMP sent several officers to assist with road closures in the area.
201A Street between Fraser Highway and 56 Avenue was closed and so was a portion of Fraser Highway near the 201A intersection.