110 seniors homeless after fire causes 'excessive damage' to St. Albert retirement complex
EDMONTON -- A seniors’ retirement home and a nearby continuing care facility were evacuated Thursday evening due to a fire.
St. Albert firefighters responded to the fire at Citadel Mews West after 7 p.m. Edmonton Fire Rescue Services told CTV News Edmonton that it received a call for assistance at 8:16 p.m. as the fire grew. Six crews from Edmonton were sent to the seniors residence at 15 Erin Ridge Road and arrived on scene shortly before 8:30 p.m.
Both the building on fire and the neighbouring continuing care facility, Citadel Mews East, were evacuated. According to officials, all 110 residents were accounted for. Forty people living in extended medical care suites were transferred to hospitals in the region.
Alberta Health Services said three were taken to hospital: two for smoke inhalation and one with minor lacerations.
The rest of the evacuees were taken by family members, or bused to either the St. Albert Inn or other senior facilities in the region.
The fire is fully extinguished, the City of St. Albert said Friday just after 9 a.m.
The building is less than 10 years old and is a multi-phase care facility, from long-term care to independent living for seniors.
“I can’t say enough thank you enough to the region,” Mayor Cathy Heron said Morinville, Spruce Grove and Edmonton's fire departments who offered aid. “In a fire like this, you need multiple response teams.”
While the cause of the fire is unknown at this time, St. Albert's acting fire chief Scott Wilde said it seems like it started on the first floor of the building in a suite then launched its way out of the building. From there it proceeded up the wall to the roof of the facility.
“(The fire) was just overwhelming,” he said. “It got up into the roof and was moving quite fast.”
The fire wall, a preventative barrier mandated by provincial building code in multi-unit building complexes like Citadel Mews, helped stop spread as fire crews focused on preserving as much of the building as they could.
“We stopped it before it got to the fire wall. So about only half of the building was damaged."
The chief added that St. Albert firefighters had multiple backup plans should the fire have spiked beyond control, including having a backhoe on scene to purposefully knock out a pedway connection to another nearby long-term care facility.
Luckily the fire was held and contingency plans did not need to be implemented, the chief said.
“We had a very good plan, executed extremely well by St. Albert crews and our mutual aid crews.”
Smoke from the fire could be seen from downtown Edmonton.
RCMP helped to evacuate the buildings and block off roadways, and asked the public to stay away from the scene so crews could continue to work without interruption.
Dale Nally, the local MLA, told media the province had offered Heron "whatever" support it could.
“I understand that emergency services are responding and doing their utmost to address the situation. Our thoughts are with all the residents, staff and first responders."
HOW TO HELP DISPLACED SENIORS
In a press conference Friday, Heron said cash donations are the best way to help displaced seniors.
She added that the city would have a way for residents to donate money and discouraged people from donating on GoFundMe pages.
“My biggest concern right now are the popup GoFundMe pages because there’s no way to guarantee that money will get to where the need is,” she said.
The city is still in the process of setting up a way to collect donations in coordination with the Red Cross.
“Cash is best because then we can buy what we need instead of having 300 toothbrushes dropped off when we don’t need that.
“Thank you to residents who want to help out,” she said. “I know residents in St. Albert care and they want to help, but just be patient.”
INVESTIGATION BEGINS, ‘EXCESSIVE DAMAGE’
Wilde said investigators have been on scene Friday and are continuing to examine the fire.
“The investigation has just begun,” he said. “That’ll take a while to narrow down the different causes.”
According to the acting fire chief, half of the 110 units will have “significant” fire damage while the other half will likely have some water damage.
“The damage was just excessive,” Wilde said.
“The part that was burned is extensively damaged,” he added. “The other side is water damaged and I really don’t know (at this time) how much work it will be to restore that side of the building.”
Alberta Health Services officials will be managing the reclamation of the site and when the decision will be made to let residents re-enter.