UPDATE: Chilliwack fire forces apartment evacuation

A downtown apartment block is behind police tape after an early morning fire ripped through the upper floor of the complex.

Fire officials continued their investigation into a suspicious fire that raged through a downtown Chilliwack apartment building early Monday morning.

Fire forced a frantic evacuation of about 40 tenants from a downtown apartment early Monday morning.

The fire broke out at around 4 a.m. in the third-floor apartment of a three-storey building, located in the 9200 block of Mary Street near Spadina.

When fire fighters arrived, flames were already shooting through the roof.

A tenant in one of the lower units said he was awoken by the alarm outside his unit. When he raced outside and turned around, he could see flames coming from the top floor.

Apartment manager Robert Lucas said he began banging on doors on the first and second floors at around 4 a.m. when the fire alarm sounded.

He said he tried going up to the third floor, but the smoke was so thick by the time he got up there, he couldn’t see into the hallway.

He did a quick head count on the street outside and said all tenants are accounted for – a point later confirmed by Chilliwack fire officials.

“There was concern raised when one of the resident’s from the complex could not be found at the time of the fire.  We are relieved to say that everyone from the building is now accounted for and thankful no one was injured,” said RCMP Cpl. Mike Rail.

According to Assistant Fire Chief Mike Bourdon, one firefighter did sustain a minor injury while fighting the fire and was taken to hospital for observations.

Firefighters from all six Chilliwack halls responded to the blaze. They remained on scene Monday morning as an investigation into the incident continued.

Officials say the fire is suspicious, and RCMP and fire investigators are looking into a cause.

“Investigators from Chilliwack Serious Crime Section, RCMP Forensic Identification Section and Chilliwack Fire Department continue to look into the cause of the fire,” said Rail

“The origin is suspicious in nature and police believe the fire was targeted.” he said.

Lucas said he had heard there was a dispute between a couple and the woman’s son – who was not supposed to be at the apartment – prior to the fire.

The tenants, meanwhile, have been provided temporary accommodation in a local hotel.

Local community groups have mobilized to help the displaced tenants.

RCMP have asked any witnessed to call Chilliwack RCMP at 604-792-4611 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).

Watch theprogress.com for more information as it becomes available.

Image credit: Michael Marks

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