Chilliwack residents were quick to come to the aid of people forced from their homes following a massive fire at an apartment condominium complex on Stevenson Road early Saturday morning.
Within hours of the blaze, a Facebook group and fundraising pages were set up to organize support for the 60 families affected by the fire.
The blaze broke out at around midnight on the upper floor of the four-storey building, located in the 45000 block of Stevenson Road. Smoke and flames were seen coming from an apartment on the fourth floor, said Chilliwack assistant fire chief Andrew Brown.
Residents were already being evacuated from the building as firefighters arrived, he said. Most escaped with little more than what they were wearing.
Buildings adjacent to the Park Ridge building were also evacuated as a precaution.
It took about three hours to knock the fire down, but it wasn’t until 8 a.m. that the fire was completely extinguished.
At one point, the fire seemed under control before flaring up again, according to witnesses.
It was a “very large volume of fire in difficult spaces up in the roof area,” said assistant fire chief Chris Wilson at the scene that morning.
The majority of the fire damage was in the top floor where several fourth-floor units were completely destroyed. Massive holes in the roof and blackened beams could be seen from the apartment’s parking lot and Vedder Road.
There was “quite a bit of water damage from the third floor down to first floor,” said Wilson, adding that fortunately there’s “very minimal smoke damage, because everything typically goes up in a fire.”
Fire crews worked through the day until around 5 p.m. assisting displaced residents by retrieving essential belongings from their suites for them.
Of the approximate 80 to 100 total residents displaced, only about 15 to 20 of them needed emergency support services — most of whom were able to spend the night in a hotel, and three who spent the night at Tyson elementary.
“People, generally, were very well prepared with other arrangements including insurance. The amount of support we needed to provide was, thankfully, a lot less than what it would typically be, so we found quite a few residents were quite prepared in this complex,” said Wilson.
Nonetheless, efforts to help those forced out of the homes was in full swing Saturday. Several businesses were offering gift cards, volunteers were organizing clothing drives, and friends were creating GoFundMe pages for people affected by the fire.
Residents were grateful for the support. Wrote one: “I can’t thank you all enough. This is so generous of you all. Thank you for the gift card, but most of all… thank you for the hug. It’s an incredible feeling to know you are cared about by a stranger. Thank you for showing everyone just how amazing our lil town is.”
Chilliwack fire investigators are still trying to determine the exact cause of the blaze, but say it appears to be accidental.