Port Alberni RCMP are investigating after a man was found deceased at an apartment fire on 4th Avenue Thursday night.
Around 11 p.m. on May 18, firefighters from the Port Alberni, Beaver Creek, Cherry Creek, and Sproat Lake fire departments responded to the 3600-block of 4th Avenue.
The fire was seen by many throughout the neighbourhood.
“Lots of smoke from the roof, all sides, all over the building. There was flame on the left hand side of the upstairs on the top side of it,” said Allen Bowditch who awoke to see the fire.
“Flames popping out the window. Flames so high. It was like higher than the wires,” said Maxine Thomas who also saw the fire.
Witnesses says fire crews responded quickly and did a good job of knocking the fire down and preventing its spread to a nearby home.
“Crews worked hard to establish a water supply and get water expeditiously on the fire. Once we were able to make entry into the building unfortunately we did find one deceased individual in the suite of origin,” said Chief Mike Owens of the Port Alberni Fire Department.
The fire chief says the building suffered extensive water and smoke damage and BC Hydro cut the electricity. It’s left at least a dozen people displaced. Emergency Support Services is aiding them.
“Now we’re in the investigation stage and once we’re done that we’ll be able to determine if rest of the building is habitable or not,” said Owens.
Investigators were inside the unit today trying to determine the fire’s cause. Port Alberni RCMP says the department is investigating, with the BC Coroner Service, the fire department, and Office of the Fire Commissioner. They’ll also work to determine how the man died and if any criminality might be involved.
The WinterGreen apartments were under scrutiny more than two years ago when the city ordered the landlord to deal with a number of building code violations and to remove some nearby trailers from the property.
The trailers reamain but the Port Alberni friendship centre continues work on a tiny homes village to safely house those living in the trailers.
The fire chief says this is the first fatal fire in the city since the one on Ian Road, more than 14 months ago, and it’s a tough one for all involved.
“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the deceased certainly and yeah it’s a tragic day in Port Alberni,” said Owens.
The fire department has yet to report if the apartment had a working smoke alarm.
RCMP say the family of the deceased have been notified and provided supports.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Port Alberni RCMP at 250-723-2424.