Tenants to be out of their homes for months after fire
Published Monday, October 8, 2018 5:26PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 9, 2018 12:36PM PDT
More than 100 people, including some living on fixed incomes, will be forced to find new homes until the fire damage to their century-old Vancouver apartment building can be repaired.
Flames tore through the Washington Court complex at Thurlow and Nelson streets last Thursday, seriously damaging several units. On Tuesday, officials announced that the fire has been deemed accidental, though crews are still determining the source of ignition.
Officials say that the flames travelled up the walls and into the ceilings, and the repairs could take close to a year. In the meantime, no one can live there.
Alexis Maledy is one of the tenants forced to try to find a new rental in a city with a vacancy rate of near-zero.
She lives on the first floor of Washington Court, and her unit fared better than most. Some of the apartments on the fourth and fifth floors were so badly damaged that residents were not permitted to return and collect their things.
"One of our friends lives on the third floor, underneath where the fire started, and their stuff is gone. Just destroyed," she said.
Maledy was allowed to go back into her apartment briefly several hours after the fire broke out.
"It was unrecognizable. Hallways were flooded with water, and the lights were off," she said.
While her unit was mostly spared, she said their clothes are smoke damaged and she'll have to throw out all of her son's stuffed animals.
"But we are very, very lucky. A number of the other tenants are not."
The fire originated in a suite occupied by Stacey Smale.
"It's uninhabitable. I can't get back in there right now," Smale told CTV Monday.
She was at work at the time of the fire, and her dog Omii was trapped inside. Fortunately, the dog was rescued by the building manager – who noticed the smoke and knew she had a dog – and a repairman.
"I could just hear the whimper of a dog, so I reached in, felt around until I felt his paw and dragged him out," said Christian Evans, who repairs heating systems.
Smale said the dog had passed out in the apartment and suffered a collapsed lung. He's getting better, but it will be a slow recovery.
"Had he been in there any longer, I probably wouldn't have him," she said.
On online fundraiser to cover Omii's vet bills has raised $3,700 in just three days. Finding a new place to live may take much longer.
"Vancouver is a little bit difficult to find a place that will take your dog, and I feel like I'm at a little bit of a disadvantage because I do have a pit bull, so it's not the most favourite breed," she said.
On top of connotations the breed carries, many buildings that do allow pets have size or weight restrictions so that only smaller dogs are permitted.
"The building that we were in welcomed all dogs, cats, everything, so it was great," she said.
Her daughter set up the fundraiser, and she said any leftover cash will go to help other animals and people affected by the fire.
"We're just so grateful to everyone who stepped in to help."
Maledy is also raising money for those affected. She said she's one of the few tenants who has insurance.
"There are people in the building who have been there for 30 years that are seniors, that are on fixed incomes, with pets, and I honestly don't know where they're going to go," she said.
The tenants' emergency social services will run out Tuesday morning.
Maledy is raising money online, but residents are also looking for donations of clothing and household items. For information on how to donate other items such as furniture, gift cards and hotel vouchers, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cash donations can be made through GoFundMe.
Inquiries can also be made through Facebook.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim