A fire burns in the second storey of a Martin Street apartment building.

White Rock fire victims left homeless for 2-3 weeks

Residents who were evacuated from a Martin Street apartment building Sunday after a fire broke out in a second-storey suite will not be returning home anytime soon.

Residents who were evacuated from a Martin Street apartment building Sunday after a fire broke out in a second-storey suite will not be returning home anytime soon.

White Rock fire Chief Phil Lemire said that while he doesn’t have a final estimate of when the building can be occupied again, it will be at least another two to three weeks.

The source of the Aug. 14 fire was determined to be cooking that was left unattended, Lemire said, resulting in extensive damage to the suite it started in, and smoke damage to second- and third-floor corridors.

He said there was minimum smoke damage to other suites in the building, located at 1497 Martin St. (an incorrect address appeared in Tuesday’s Peace Arch News).

The smoke damage to corridors, however, could have been minimized, Lemire said.

“The smoke damage in the other corridors was more extensive because of fire doors that were wedged open that should be shut,” he said, noting the doors are typically opened in an attempt to cool hot buildings.

“The fact is, those doors are there for a purpose and it was clear on the second floor where the fire doors were kept shut, it controlled the smoke – there was virtually no smoke damage in the hallway – whereas the floor where fire doors were open was more damaged.”

Everybody self-vacated the 20-suite building, Lemire said, and one man who was kept in hospital for observation was released Monday. Two cats that were removed from the building by firefighters were taken to a nearby veterinarian and are doing fine, he added.

As assessments are being done on the building, a number of residents are staying with friends or family, while others were put up through the Provincial Emergency Program, which looks after individuals’ immediate needs for the first couple days.

While the incident is a reminder to use care when cooking, Lemire said his main issue is with the fire doors, which should always be kept closed.

“When you see something that was there for their protection and wasn’t in place, it’s unfortunate.”

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