Neighbours open doors to displaced residents after Campbell River apartment fire

Kent Burkitt
Crews responded to a fire in an apartment building on Erickson Road on Feb. 17, 2024.

Though it may not be the ideal reason to be hosting your neighbours, a couple in Campbell River opened their doors after a fire forced the evacuation of a nearby apartment building.

There were no injuries reported from the fire at 155 Erickson Road, but all roughly 120 residents of the building had to be evacuated at 2:30 in the morning due to a fire.

Alison Orr and her husband Brad live nearby, and decided to open their doors to the displaced residents to use the washroom and to offer a coffee or tea.

“Brad heard and saw some flames from a window and he said ‘hey Al’ and we saw the terrible,” Alison said in an interview. “I just knew there would be people that would be cold and having to use the washroom and just thought we’d go and open our house.”

Alison says they’ve been offering coffee, tea and water to the displaced residents.

“And it’s almost breakfast time, so I guess we gotta start cooking some eggs,” she said.

Campbell River’s fire chief, Dan Verdun, tells CHEK News when firefighters arrived on scene to a fire on the front side of the building around 2:30 a.m.

“Crew started to action that we’re here for a substantial amount of time combating that fire. The fire got into the attic space, which made it a little bit difficult from an access perspective,” Verdun said.

“So we were using aerial devices and access crews from the inside of the building to stabilize it. Luckily, the design of the structure has natural fire barriers in it, so the concentration of the fire was on the, of course, the affected side, the other side of the structure appears to have maintained no damage or very minimal damage.”

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Verdun says there have not been any injuries reported from the fire and the cause is still under investigation.

Craig Burkitt is one of the residents who were evacuated from the building and says he was awake before the fire alarms went off.

“I heard people talking, I was awake playing on my iPad, and I heard some fellas downstairs and we’ve had people break in here so I thought it was people that were about to break in,” Burkitt said.

“Then all of a sudden the fire alarms came out. So I jumped up, looked out my window and saw nothing, but I saw some flickering, so I looked out a different window and then that’s when I saw a fire and know that ‘oh, okay this is real.'”

Burkitt says he is one of the building’s fire warden’s, so he went into the hall and started knocking on doors to alert people to the fire, and check in on some neighbours who use wheelchairs.

“So what happened is there ended up five of us in the stairwell because they were in wheelchairs and couldn’t get down the stairs,” Burkitt said. “So we were in the stairwell for probably 20 minutes and then the firemen came and carried everybody in the wheelchairs down and got them out of the building.”

Becky Merrill, another evacuated resident, says the building had a small kitchen fire a few weeks ago and there have been other false alarms in the past, but once it was became apparent that it was real, the building banded together to ensure everyone got out.

“It’s a very community minded building and neighbourhood,” Merrill said. “There are some people that do hold back from time to time, but apparently everybody was out. There were several young fellows going through floor by floor and pounding on the doors, making sure everybody got out, which was very nice.”

Verdun says there are about four suites with fire damage but a number of others with water damage. Now the fire department will be assessing the damage and helping residents access necessary items like documents or medication from the suites.

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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