Port Alberni fire displaces more than a dozen people in low-barrier housing


The Port Alberni Fire Department is investigating the cause of a fire that’s displaced more than a dozen people from a low-barrier housing complex.

The fire happened at the Phoenix House on Fifth Avenue Thursday.

The fire department got the call at 3:45 in the morning.

“When crews arrived on scene they found heavy fire coming from the first floor of the building in multiple suites,” said Chief Mike Owens of the Port Alberni Fire Department.

Firefighters, with the support of neighbouring fire departments, knocked down the blaze.

BC Ambulance took three people to hospital with smoke inhalation. One remains in hospital.

The fire destroyed three units while others suffered smoke damage and the building’s power was cut as a precaution.

Fire investigators are trying to determine the cause.

“We’ve been gathering physical evidence, now we’re moving into interviews. Certainly, at this point, there’s nothing to lead up to believe that it’s suspicious in nature,” said Owens.

“It’s disheartening when we see a fire in any building in the community but especially one that houses a good majority of marginalized individuals,” said Wes Hewitt, executive director of the Port Alberni Shelter Society.

The society that runs the low-barrier housing says the community needs hundreds of beds more so a fire displacing residents is the last thing it needs.

“It puts another strain on the already strained system,” said Hewitt.

But as Port Alberni is known to do, the community has stepped up.

The Salvation Army is among the organizations giving assistance.

“We’ve been able to provide clothing for those who did not have any extra clothing, had lost everything they had in the incident of course. we’ve been able to provide meals, not only the warm meals at the bread of life but also some hampers to those who would need it,” said Michael Ramsay, officer with the Salvation Army.

The power for some units was expected to be turned back on Friday and some will be allowed to return to their suites but the Port Alberni Shelter Society says remarkably everyone will continue to have a roof over their heads.

READ MORE: Overnight fire in Port Alberni claims life of man in his 60s

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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