What the Flamingo Block is expected to look like, after the property is redeveloped. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk).

Eighteen tenants homeless after fire at Surrey’s Flamingo Hotel

Whalley residents were already facing eviction by May 2

SURREY — Eighteen Whalley residents are now without a home after a small fire on the second-storey of the Flamingo Hotel set off a sprinkler, causing considerable water damage.

About a month ago, the tenants, who pay $750 in rent for a room, received eviction notice to be out by May 2, but Saturday’s fire has hurried that along.

Surrey Battalion Chief Reo Jerome said Monday the cause of the fire is “undetermined at this time.”

Nobody was in the room at the time, he added.

“It was very small,” he said of the fire. “No structural damage.” But it was sufficient to activate the sprinkler, Jerome noted, and, “gravity happens, right?”

“(There was) a lot of water damage, I guess. The sprinkler did its job.”

Jerome said a fire investigator was on scene at the Now-Leader’s press time. He said it was his understanding the tenants would be relocated to a shelter.

Surrey land developer Charan Sethi, of the Tien Sher Group, has big plans for the property, aiming over the next decade or so to build three residential towers along with some smaller buildings and some inviting park space on 4.3 acres there.

The land runs north from 107A Avenue to the hotel’s northside and from Whalley Boulevard east to King George Boulevard. It’s called the Flamingo block project and he intends to develop from east to west, from Whalley Boulevard to King George with a six storey building at the back and the taller towers closer to King George.

The Flamingo block will be divided into four mini blocks — with a street cut through to 108th. There will be a gallery, a coffee shop, a restaurant and parkland. Sethi estimates the entire Flamingo block project — roughly a seven-minute walk to SkyTrain — will consist of 1,900 homes housing roughly 3,700 people

Saturday’s fire, with its sprinkler and smoke damage as well, closed the Byrd pub and a concert by Mud Bay was cancelled.

“It was devastating, because what happened was Saturday was actually going to be our biggest night,” Sethi said.

After Hazmat, restoration workers and insurance adjusters are done, he said, the Byrd will be re-opened in “a minimum six to eight weeks, I would say.”

“We’re not going to let this drive this music venue away from us,” Sethi vowed.

READ ALSO: Fire at Flamingo hotel forces tenants out, closes Byrd bar

The Blackbird Hall, he added, is “just fine” and will likely be re-opened by the weekend but the lounge, which sustained bathroom damage, will be closed longer. The beer and wine store remains open.

As for sending the tenants packing prematurely, he said, “We had no choice because the fire department deemed the place to be uninhabitable. There was no fire safety, there was no hydro, an the damage with the smoke and the water – I mean, it would be criminal for me to house anybody there.”

Sethi said the 18 tenants were already facing a May 2 eviction “because everything was so bad in there, we ended up having to do that.

“We were working with them, one at a time, to see if they could go somewhere else,” he said. “The fire damage is quite extensive upstairs. So whether they come back, whether they don’t, where they’re going to go I really don’t know right now.”

“We’re trying to see if any of them have paid their rent and so we can give their rent back,” Sethi told the Now-Leader on Monday.

“We’re allowing people, one at a time, to go back and get their belongings,” he said. “We had to shut it down — the fire department shut it down, ‘Okay, everybody out,’ done.”

“We are already telling people you have an hour or two to come in, take your stuff out and then go, because we can’t keep their stuff locked up like that, it’s not nice.”

Is he helping them find a new place? “I don’t have the capability, capacity to do it,” he said.

“The City was very good, they came on site on Saturday night and they took control of the situation. I believe they even gave extra funding to some to take care of the situation, so everybody’s been very, very good about it to make sure that people are not on the street. Some have been put in a hotel, so it’s all good, it’s all good.”

That, of course, depends on your perspective.

Melinda Laporte said she had been living at the hotel for two and a half years but some tenants had been there for 10 or more.

She said she slept under a tarp Sunday night.

“We were told that fire emergency services would be finding us accommodation,” Laporte said. “Now we are told we have to line up at a homeless shelter to sleep on the floor. There is only damage to one suite. There is no need for the rest of us to be without a roof over our heads. Most of us have nowhere to go.

“We don’t have a place to live right now.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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