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Owners of former Dwayne's Home building waiting for demolition permit amidst rash of fires

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A second fire in as many days – and the 19th of the year – broke out at the building of the former Dwayne's Home in downtown Edmonton early Thursday morning.

According to the district chief on scene, firefighters were sent to the now-empty facility on 100 Avenue and 102 Street at 5:10 a.m.

The light smoke that was immediately visible was coming from a "small fire" they believe originated in a basement mechanical room.

Firefighters work at 10209 100 Ave., the site of the former transitional housing facility Dwayne's Home, the morning of Sept. 15, 2022, where a fire was reported early that morning.

The call was upgraded to a second alarm because of the size of the building, meaning a total of about 45 firefighters ended up at the scene.

"The building looks like it's been renovated a couple of times. So we're not quite sure how the smoke is going to go up in different ways, so it looked worse than it actually was," explained district chief Jame Wilson.

FRUSTRATING, BUT EXPECTED: FIRE CHIEF

Crews had the blaze under control in less than 15 minutes and were gone from the scene by 7 a.m.

Wilson said fire-fighting crews met people leaving the building as they arrived. No one was hurt.

"We do have some people that do come in and spend the night here," he told CTV News Edmonton.

"There was no interaction with the people. Nobody was hostile. They left."

Firefighters work at 10209 100 Ave., the site of the former transitional housing facility Dwayne's Home, the morning of Sept. 15, 2022, where a fire was reported early that morning.

Dwayne's Home was a transitional housing facility. It closed in 2020.

A fire at the property early Wednesday morning took about an hour and a half to extinguish. It was the 18th fire there in 2022, according to Edmonton Fire Rescue Services, whose Community Property Safety Team has declared the building a significant safety risk to the public.

Procura Real Estate, the property owner, is appealing an order to secure the building, install security fencing and provide round-clock on-site security whose job it is to keep the building empty.

A fire investigator takes pictures at 10209 100 Ave., the site of the former transitional housing facility Dwayne's Home, the morning of Sept. 15, 2022, after crews put out a blaze there that morning.

The city says the building remains the property owner's responsibility until applications to demolish the building and redevelop the site are approved.

“We have a demolition permit, which we are just awaiting approval on, which we hope will happen in the next week or so,” said Sherry Schleussel of Procura Real Estate.

Schleussel says the company will argue during their appeal that the latest fire happened while the building was under the control of fire investigators, something the city has confirmed.

She also says the site is currently enclosed, the building is boarded up, and they have security monitoring.

“They will still get into the building. So we know we have to take down the building. People have to understand, we haven’t done nothing,” she said.

NEED FOR HOUSING FOR THE HOMELESS

Schleussel says the closure of Dwayne’s Home displaced the building’s residents. She says Procura is working with the city, and preparing for redevelopment, but tearing down the building will only see the problem move somewhere else.

“Those people have been displaced. We know that it is an issue in the downtown core, and I know this because we’re property owners,” she told CTV News Edmonton.

“Focusing on the real issue here, which is housing for the homeless. Not affordable housing, not attainable housing, social housing that helps with addictions.”

“People have to understand, the majority of the homeless people are suffering from addictions. So when you provide social housing, it is just a maintenance program. It’s a Band-Aid.”

Schleussel says it’s likely many of the fires in the last year have been started by people who knew the building.

“Most likely people who are familiar with the building and the area. Even when it was Dwayne’s Home there were reports of fires there and incidents as well,” she said.

 

Wilson noted his firefighters are also familiar with the building. 

"We do have to treat it like any other call we do get. When it comes in as structure fire, we do have a full response. The guys have to treat it as such until we find out what's going on in there," Wilson told CTV News Edmonton.

"I don't know how many times we've been here… It is frustrating but we understand that there are people looking for places to stay with the homelessness in Edmonton right now."

REDEVELOPMENT PLANS

Procura plans to tear down the existing building and build a new building that will have micro suites for residents.

“We have noted that people who want to live in the downtown area typically are students or professionals,” Schleussel said.

“Around 400 square feet, 350 to 400, but it’s really that location in the river valley that offers those types of amenities for people who want to live close to work and get outdoors.”

She says the area was rezoned in July, and once the demolition permit is approved, the company will submit a development permit to the city.

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Evan Klippenstein and David Ewasuk. 

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