An early morning fire that forced the evacuation of a three-storey apartment building in Chilliwack Wednesday is being treated as “suspicious” by police and fire officials.
The fire started on a second-floor balcony of the McIntosh Manor at about 4:37 a.m. and the flames spread up to the third-floor balcony, but firefighters quickly knocked down the blaze before any major damage was done, said Assistant Fire Chief Ian Josephson.
However, smoke got inside the building and set off the fire alarm which caused tenants to start evacuation, he said.
Two RCMP officers arriving at the scene heard an explosion, and started helping tenants evacuate the building.
Sgt. Glen Carrier and Const. Pierre Boivin carried one 67-year-old woman, who had recently been released from hospital for hip surgery, down three flights of stairs.
“These two members went above and beyond the call of duty,” Cpl. Tammy Hollingsworth said. “They risked their own lives by running into a burning building to save the residents of this building to ensure everyone got out safely.”
Carrier and Boivin were treated on scene for smoke inhalation, and taken to Chilliwack General Hospital for observation. Three other RCMP officers, who had knocked on doors and helped others to evacuate, were also treated on scene for smoke inhalation.
Three tenants were also taken to hospital and treated for smoke inhalation, and all were later released.
Chilliwack firefighters were also praised for their “timely and effective response” to the blaze.
“Having suffered through two acts of arson in this city in as many years, (it) really puts me on edge any time I hear an alarm bell ringing,” said Bergeil DeBungie, a resident at McIntosh Manor.
“I at least have the comfort of knowing that these fine men will be there to do their jobs quickly and efficiently.”
Only two of the tenants in the 72-unit apartment on McIntosh Drive were not able to return home.
Police are reportedly seeking a search warrant to enter the suite where the fire started, which is now being treated as a possible crime scene.
“It does look suspicious,”Josephson said about the fire. “We’re working on that angle.”
He said a propane tank on the balcony did explode, but “that could be just due to the fire” rather than its cause.
Hollingsworth said an investigation by the detachment’s serious crime unit is underway.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Chilliwack RCMP at 604-792-4611 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.