At least 40 people are homeless in Parksville after a major fire damaged their apartment building Thursday night. The fire department believes the blaze started as a result of roofing work done earlier in the day. Residents will have to find a new place to live, some for months, while repairs are underway. Mary Griffin reports.
A fire at the Ocean Terrace Apartment building in Parksville forced all the tenants out of the 40 units.
Some local residents heard about the fire and headed to the blaze, including James Street who is looking for his mother-in-law’s cat.
“I haven’t been able to connect with her myself. I’ve been standing, waiting to see if the cat made it out. My wife’s working with her right now,” Street said.
A number of pets were also rounded up, and taken to the local SPCA until their owners are located.
With 50 firefighters from five different departments, it was several hours before the blaze was under control.
Parksville Fire Chief Marc Norris says the cause appears to be connected with work done earlier in the day on the building’s roof.
“Apparently, there was been roofing operations going on during the day. So we suspect the fire was caused, had something to do with the roofing operations,” Norris said.
The fire spread in the space between the roof and the fourth floor apartment ceilings. The damage was clearly visible the next day.
Tenant Cliff Cererini didn’t noticed what was going on at first while outside on his fourth-floor balcony.
“I was out on the deck with my ear buds on. All of a sudden I smelt some smoke. Took my ear buds out. And a bunch of tenants were already down below, saying, ‘get out of the building! get out of the building!,'” Cereini said.
“I look up at the roof, and there’s our roof on fire. I come out on the back of the building, and there was flames showing. Called 911. And then everybody came, and all hell broke loose.”
With dozens of tenants homeless for the short term at least, the City of Parksville Emergency Services is providing 72 hours of assistance, including three nights in a hotel.
Chris James is with City of Parksville’s Emergency Support Services.
“Most of those people left with just the clothes on their backs. They are probably going to get referred for accommodation, food, and incidentals like clothing, and medications,” James said.
It may be months before repairs are finished on the building. And with a vacancy rate close to zero in Parksville, it’s going to be a challenge to find housing.