More than fifteen people displaced and now homeless, pets lost, personal belongings and mementoes lay charred in rubble, and a firefighter injured — all in two city fires in two days, bringing 2021 to a devasting close for those affected.
Electricity, heat, and water have been disconnected to the 15 unit residential property at 1127 Second Ave. W., known as Angus Apartments, after a fire broke out on Dec. 28 in a main floor unit. Due to extensive damage, the building is inhabitable, Chad Cooper, deputy fire chief of Prince Rupert Fire Rescue, told The Northern View, on Dec. 29.
“The call was dispatched at 6:50 p.m. and came from a tenant who lived at Angus. They confirmed smoke and fire in unit one,” Cooper said, who was the first to arrive on the scene. Most tenants were already outside on the street by the time he arrived.
Fourteen firefighters and four apparatus vehicles arrived at the incident, where the crew started an attack line fighting the fire through a main floor bedroom window to control the fire.
“We had a small window of opportunity to quickly suppress the fire before it transitioned to the second floor and into void spaces within the building.”
While fighting the fire, two additional members were setting up a 24-foot extension ladder for an occupant who was in a second-floor window. However, while the crew instructed him to remain in place as there was no immediate danger to him, Cooper said the occupant was quite scared. Before they could get the ladder to him, he crawled out of the window and dropped.
While there were reports of a few people missing, the deputy fire chief said there were two crews doing simultaneous searches of the building, and everyone was accounted for. It is unknown exactly how many people were living in the building, but all leased tenants and known occupants were accounted for.
“Our local RCMP did an amazing job with the staging, getting headcounts, relaying information back to me staying that everyone was accounted for,” he said.
Cooper said he hadn’t heard that any pets were lost in the Tuesday night fire, and they actually rescued one cat that did not need the pet oxygen devices.
While none of the occupants were hurt, a firefighter was injured during the incident and was taken to hospital.
“Despite a broken hand, he continued to fight the fire on the first and second floor for several hours. He’s a real trooper.”
The alarm system in the building was operating and active when the firefighters arrived on site.
” … we have regular false alarms there, so thankfully one of the tenants that found the fire went door to door and started alerting everybody,” Cooper said.
While space heaters were found on site, the cause of the blaze has not been determined but is not suspicious, the deputy chief said.
On Dec. 27, Prince Rupert Fire Rescue attended a two-unit-house fire on Mckay St. from a 2:50 p.m. call. A female home occupant was outside shovelling snow when she saw smoke come from her ground floor unit and called 911.
When crews arrived, they discovered smoke coming from a living room bay window and made a quick entry into the lower suite and were able to suppress the fire in the living room quickly, Cooper said. The fire was contained to one area of the unit, but smoke damage went throughout, with minor smoke damage to the upper unit. There was no structural damage.
While firefighters rescued cats from the home, they were unresponsive.
“Fire crews and BC Ambulance attempted to resuscitate the cates using the oxygen mask, and CPR, however, were unsuccessful,” he said.
Cooper offered a friendly warning to the public and said it is important not to overload sockets for running space heaters.
“If you are running a space heater, extensions cords should not be used. Make sure it is plugged directly into the wall and has at least three feet clearance around it.
Everyone should test their smoke alarms, ensuring it is 10 years or newer with batteries replaced every six months.
“All residents of a home should learn to close all doors when they are sleeping or when they leave. If there is a fire, closing doors limits smoke damage,” he said, adding it can give up to an additional 20 mins when you are sleeping,” he said.