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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”