Only one-third of an apartment complex in New Westminster, B.C., is still standing after an inferno ripped through the building Friday morning.

According to the City of New Westminster, 36 residents have been left homeless, and the majority of people do not have insurance to cover the losses.

The fire started out slowly between the lobby and the second floor but quickly spread to the rest of the building, destroying 31 units.

“I saw it collapse and was just like ‘oh my God.’ I’ve never seen anything like that,” said Heather McClelland, who lives next door.

“I feel devasted for people who live there. They've lost everything. And it's so sad.”

The burning structure collapsed at 5 a.m. three and a half hours after flames were initially spotted. Miraculously, no injuries were reported and officials said everybody in the building has been accounted for.

Resident Robert Johnson was able to escape the building with his pet after hearing people yell in the hallway.

“[I] grabbed my bird and got the hell out,” he said.

Albert Ervin said another resident carried him from down to the street from his third floor unit.

“I couldn’t do nothing, [he] picked me up and carried me downstairs,” he told CTV News.

The landlord says there were sprinklers in the parking garage and storage area. Fire crews believe the age of the structure was a factor in the fire.

“The challenges is when it gets into the floor and ceiling joists and without fire stops these aging buildings, there may or may not be adequate fire stopping in it,” said New Westminster Fire Dept. Asst. Chief John Hatch.

Three buildings nearby were evacuated -because sparks and embers from the massive fire were being carried away by the wind.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

City councillor Chuck Puchmayr says they’ll do everything possible to make sure residents have shelter tonight, and permanent housing going forward.

So far, 116 people have checked in at an evacuation centre at Centennial Lodge in Queen’s Park.

How to help fire victims

In the aftermath of this morning’s fire at 404 Ash Street, the City of New Westminster has been in contact with the following organizations that are equipped and ready to take offers of donations for affected residents:


Salvation Army

325 Sixth Street, New Westminster

Tel: 604-521-0363 (clothing and small household items – no furnishings please)


St. Barnabas Church

1010 Fifth Street, New Westminster

Tel: 604-526-6646 (clothing, small household items, small furnishings)


Shilo United Church Hospitality Project

1111 Sixth Avenue, New Westminster

604-522-3443 (clothing and small household items)

* Volunteers will be on hand Saturday, Feb 1 from 10:00 am - 4:00 pm and Sunday, Feb 2 from 10:00 am-2:00 pm to accept donations.