No one was injured but dozens of people are without homes after fire tore through a Port Moody apartment building Wednesday afternoon.
Crews worked through the afternoon, evening and night to contain the blaze, putting out dozens of spot fires that flared up in the attic area of the structure. Firefighters were finally finished at the scene at around 10 a.m. Thursday.
Emergency crews arrived on scene during the lunch hour and worked to douse the flames that had been pouring out of the ceiling area. Fire Chief Remo Faedo said the source of the fire was a suite on the third floor of the building but because the blaze moved into the air space in the attic, it was difficult to contain.
"It was a pretty significant fire," said Fire Chief Remo Faedo. "We were there all night."
Help came from Coquitlam Fire and Rescue, whose firefighters attacked one side of the spreading fire while the Port Moody Fire Department focused its efforts at the other end of the building.
"It was right in the middle so you had fire spreading in both directions," Faedo said. "It sounds simple but it is not. It is a lot of work and a lot of labour."
Residents from two buildings in the housing complex — 900 and 902 Clarke Rd. — were evacuated, But most of the damage was contained to 900. Occupants of the 902 building were allowed to return around 1 a.m.
While firefighters focused their efforts on getting the blaze under control, several entered the structure to save pets and animals. Early in the blaze, Faedo and a police officer were seen carrying bird cages out of the building and he said a cat was rescued and given back to a distraught woman who thought the pet had perished.
"There were a lot of pet requests," he said. "The thing is, doors get left open and some of the pets weren't in the rooms where people said they were."
Those who lost their homes in the fire reported to the Kyle Centre and were given 72 hours of emergency shelter.
Faedo said it is too soon to know the extent of the damage or the cause of the blaze but he did note that 20% of the structure burned and 50% sustained significant water damage.
"We lost the third floor for half the building," he said. "The problem then becomes the suites below had significant water damage and smoke damage… There is a lot of restoration work required if that is the direction they want to go."
The blaze was reminiscent of an incident 15 years ago when fire broke out at a similar apartment building at 906 Clarke Rd. In that case, Faedo said the fire started on the ground floor, moved up the side of the building and into the attic, destroying a huge section of the structure. In that case, the building had to be torn down.
On Wednesday, residents watched from a nearby parking lot as firefighters doused the blaze.
"I just saw a bit of smoke," said Zornn Kriznik, a resident of the building whose unit was close to where the flames were burning. "I was on the balcony and I saw smoke from another apartment but just a little bit."
He has lived in the apartment complex for more than 10 years and said his wife was at work and his youngest son was at school at the time of the incident.
Another woman, who identified herself only as Rose, said she has lived in the complex for 20 years. She resides in a different building connected to the property and said she was at the dentist at the time that the fire broke out.
Traffic along Clarke Road was detoured while firefighters worked, snarling traffic on side streets as many commuters made their way home during the afternoon rush hour.