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5 hospitalized, dozens displaced after fire tears through Vancouver building housing vulnerable residents


Five people were hospitalized and dozens more were displaced after a fire tore through a mixed-use building in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood Monday, damaging much-needed units of low-income housing.

Hours after the blaze broke out, Fire Chief Karen Fry said crews had managed to rescue several occupants of the Winters Hotel, but could not account for "upwards of a handful" of them.

More information is expected to be released on Tuesday morning.

Firefighters described the blaze that broke out at the Abbott Street heritage building as fast-moving and complex, and said crews would likely remain on scene overnight.

Meanwhile, officials were left scrambling to find temporary housing for residents of the single-room occupancy hotel that occupied the top floors.

Janice Abbott, CEO of the non-profit Atira Women's Resource Society, which runs the SRO, said it's unclear whether the vulnerable people who lived there will ever be able to return.

"I don't believe the building is going to be able to be repaired," she said. "I'm not an engineer, but it's not looking good."

It's not yet known whether anyone was killed in the blaze.

The building also has businesses on the ground floor, though it appears the fire started on one of the residential floors.

A witness told CTV News she saw people jumping to safety from the building in the historic neighbourhood popular with tourists and locals for its bars, restaurants and shops.

It is unclear how many were rescued, but B.C. Emergency Health Services told CTV News two of the people taken to hospital where in serious condition, and three others were considered "stable."

According to Fry, one of those people was injured while jumping from an upper floor. Another was hospitalized after being rescued about an hour into the fire by firefighters using a ladder truck.

Others were treated at the scene for minor injuries, BCEHS said in an email.

Fry said the building was recently inspected and had a sprinkler system, but she did not know whether it was working when the fire started.


A man who said he lived near to the unit where the fire sparked and was home at the time told CTV News, "I lost everything."

The resident who identified himself as Chris said in addition to smoke and fire damage, a lot of firefighters' efforts were concentrated at and near his unit, meaning there will also be significant water damage.

He said the fire started on the second floor, and that the smoke was so thick on the third floor that he couldn't see anything. He said he believed most people got out on their own or were rescued, but there were still some animals inside.

Another resident, Nicole, said she was the first person to alert others of the fire by shouting.

"As soon as I opened my door a big black gust of smoke came up in my face and I just yelled, 'Fire,'" she said in an interview at the scene.

"I made sure everybody could hear me. After that, I quickly grabbed my animals and got out. I don't even have a jacket. My partner doesn't even have shoes on his feet. We just had to get out."

She said many who lived in the building have nowhere to go.

Nicole said she saw two people rescued by firefighters who'd been so exposed to smoke that "they just collapsed to the ground" when they got out. They were treated for smoke inhalation, she added.

"It's scary. I'm still shaking."


At the scene, smoke poured from the windows and roof of the four-storey brick building near Water Street as firefighters aimed hoses at the upper floors.

The Atira Women's Resource Society told CTV News the hotel has 89 units, and that a triage space has been set up to help those displaced by the fire.

Staff at Atira have already been able to offer some residents alternate housing at other properties, according to the CEO. They're also working with partner organizations to provide temporary shelter.

"The primary thing today is to make sure people have a place to go today, they have a place to sleep tonight, that they have their basic needs met in the immediate aftermath of this," Abbott said.

"Over the next few days, it's about trying to figure out exactly what happened, and try to make sure that people get long-term permanent housing so people are not made homeless as a result of this."

Abbott said she believes the building was "fully tenanted" at the time of the fire, and added there are often guests as well. She said while there is a sign-in policy for visitors, it's not always followed, making it difficult to discern an exact head count.

She added the building had to be evacuated just a few days ago, when a small fire broke out on Friday and was quickly extinguished.

As for the fire's impact on much-needed housing in the city, Abbott called it "devastating," particularly if the building is not repaired.

Atira is looking for donations of men's and women's clothing, toiletries, pet supplies, and asks for the donations to be brought to Bette's Boutique – also operated by the non-profit – at the intersection of Main and Cordova streets.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth addressed the situation ahead of a news conference Monday afternoon, saying the province will be helping to co-ordinate support for those impacted, including displaced residents.

He said BC Housing has been notified, and estimated about 70 tenants will need to be relocated. A reception centre is being established for those who need help, Farnworth said.

"Our thoughts are with those affected, their families and the firefighters on scene."


Through the morning and into the afternoon, smoke could be seen from several kilometres away as flames poured from the roof of the red-brick building. An estimate of the damage caused by the fire is not yet available.

Some in the area reported power outages, and Simon Fraser University's Goldcorp Centre for the Arts closed "due to poor air quality."

The school said all events and classes at the Woodwards' building have been cancelled. Vancouver police are asking drivers to avoid the area because of the fire.

Those in the downtown area were told by Vancouver's fire chief to keep their windows closed to avoid the toxic smoke wafting indoors.

Officials said 13 vehicles were involved in the firefighting effort, and that 60 firefighters remained involved by 6:30 p.m.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Bhinder Sajan and The Canadian Press

Smoke from a downtown Vancouver fire is seen from Hollyburn Mountain on Monday, April 11, 2022. (Carly Yoshida-Butryn / CTV News Vancouver)

Smoke is seen billowing out of Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood during a three-alarm fire on April 11, 2022.

Firefighters work to extinguish a three-alarm fire in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood on April 11, 2022. (Submitted)

Onlookers are seen at the scene of a fire in Vancouver on Monday, April 11, 2022. (Jim Fong / CTV News Vancouver)

The scene of a fire on Abbott Street is pictured in Vancouver on Monday, April 11, 2022. (Jim Fong / CTV News Vancouver)

A fire tears through a building in Vancouver's Gastown neighbourhood on Monday, April 11, 2022. (Jim Fong / CTV News Vancouver) Top Stories

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