People injured in fire at residential building in downtown Vancouver: chief

People injured in fire at residential building in downtown Vancouver: chief
A firefighter on a ladder truck directs water on a four-alarm fire burning at a single room occupancy hotel in Vancouver, Monday, April 11, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VANCOUVER — Two people were taken to hospital and officials were trying to account for everyone who lived in a building that caught fire Monday in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood, the fire chief said as heavy smoke filled the air behind her.

Officials didn’t know the status of all the residents of the four-storey building and they were looking for “upwards of a handful,” said Chief Karen Fry, adding people could have been out or scattered after fleeing the flames.

Fry said paramedics told her one person was injured while jumping from an upper floor as firefighters were arriving and another woman was hospitalized after being rescued from the second floor about an hour into the blaze.

Firefighters used a ladder truck to rescue others from upper floors, which were engulfed in smoke and flame at the time, the chief said.

The fire appears to have started on the third or fourth floor, but officials won’t know the cause until an investigation is complete, Fry said.

Simon Fraser University student Joseph Ku, 20, said he was attending class in a building about a block away when he started smelling smoke.

He and his classmates made their way outside, where Ku said he saw a man with black marks on his face and body lying on the ground. Ku said the man began responding to emergency efforts to resuscitate him before being transported away.

Fry said fire crews were called around 11 a.m. and found flames and heavy smoke coming from the building, which contains low-income single rooms.

It was home to vulnerable residents in the city’s Downtown Eastside and housing will need to be arranged for those who were displaced, she said.

By mid-afternoon, Fry said part of the roof had collapsed. Crews were attacking the fire from all sides to prevent it spreading to neighbouring buildings, she said.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth told a separate news conference on Monday that an estimated 70 residents were affected, and a reception centre was being established for those who need support.

Fry said the building had recently been inspected and it had a sprinkler system, but she didn’t know if it was working when the fire broke out.

Smoke that drifted across downtown from the fire was toxic and should be avoided, she added.

The building is one of the area’s oldest, Fry said, and it likely had a wooden frame with a brick façade that was crumbling in parts.

“Once (the fire) gets into the membrane of the building or the outer walls and into the roof, it’s really difficult, it’s like you’re chasing it, chasing the fire.”

About 55 firefighters along with support personnel responded to the call, Fry said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 11, 2022.

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