Yellow caution tape continues to block access to Vinewood apartment units that were damaged by fire on April 26.

Yellow caution tape continues to block access to Vinewood apartment units that were damaged by fire on April 26.

Some White Rock fire victims won’t return home for months

Many residents of a White Rock apartment building where a fire broke out last week didn't have insurance.

The majority of residents evacuated last week after an apartment fire in White Rock returned home Tuesday morning.

But for some tenants of the Vinewood complex, at 14980 Vine Ave., the wait will be months.

“The deal is we got most of the people back,” building manager Roger Jackson said. “There’s a few people that are going to be out long-term.”

Firefighters were called to the 59-unit building around 6:30 a.m. April 26, after an explosion followed by flames as high as the building alerted residents to the trouble.

“When I opened up my door, the smoke was so thick you couldn’t even see,” said Jasmin Bujak.

While there was no damage to Bujak’s ground-floor suite – which she had moved into just a few weeks before – the days since have been “a living nightmare,” she said, noting the fire was a lousy way to get to know her neighbours.

Jackson, an employee of Porte Realty who is among those who still cannot go home, estimated about half of the building’s residents were not insured.

While they received 72 hours’ assistance from Emergency Social Services, there are some, including Bujak, who continue to wonder how they will cope in the days ahead.

“I’ve lived here for 3½ weeks and I’m homeless,” she said.

Restoration workers have been on the scene since Thursday, assessing the damage, cleaning carpets and recertifying the building’s alarms and elevators. They were to begin demolition work on the most damaged suites Wednesday.

Jackson estimated work on the suite immediately above where the fire started will take three or four months, and said efforts are underway to find accommodation for displaced tenants in other Porte-managed buildings nearby. Eleven Vinewood suites remain unsuitable for occupation, he said.

Most of the tenants are taking the situation “with a smile,” Jackson said.

He commended the actions of White Rock firefighters and ESS staff, and thanked neighbours who stepped up to lend a hand. Tenants of a neighbouring building took Vinewood residents in and offered snacks that morning; PriceSmart officials sent over lunch.

Jackson appealed to all citizens to learn from the experience.

“Possessions, they can all be replaced. We’re very fortunate, and if the fire department hadn’t responded as quickly as they had, we would’ve lost the building.

“Please, please, please tenants, consider having insurance. I’ve had people say to me, ‘I’ve got nothing to insure,’ but you never know. When you need it, it’s just so important.”