VIDEO – A fire at Villa Anna Apartments in the late morning of Tuesday, June 19, has caused significant structural and smoke damage and will likely displace several residents indefinitely.
The blaze broke out on the southeast corner of the third floor of the building, located at 4465 Michigan Avenue, in Unit 301. Several passersby observed flames and heavy smoke coming from the structure.
At approximately 11:30 am, a call was received at the 911 dispatch centre. A ladder truck with two responders from Powell River Fire Rescue on board was sent to the scene and more apparatus and crew arrived in the moments that followed.
“We had a little bit of time getting ourselves organized as we didn’t have a lot of staff initially,” said fire chief Dan Ouellette. “So once we did, we moved the lines up to the third floor, all the while trying to evacuate and move people out at the same time."
There were initial concerns surrounding the safety of several elderly residents, however no injuries were reported and all occupants managed to evacuate the building safely. Fire department officials identified approximately 45 people as residents during the evacuation process. One tenant remained trapped inside as firefighters fought to put out the blaze, but was later escorted from the structure unharmed.
“Crews met heavy smoke and heat in the hallways and retreated to start with so we elected to begin to do a defensive attack from the outside,” said Ouellette. After gaining control over the flames and heat, firefighters were able to return inside the building and enter the apartment where the fire had originated.
Ouellette said he believed the fire started in the kitchen of the unit. “We’re being told that it was a pot left on the stove or a burner turned on in error,” he said.
Evacuees gathered across the street at Powell River United Church as firefighters extinguished the blaze. They were placed under the care of Emergency Social Services and moved to Powell River Salvation Army facilities where alternative accommodations were being arranged for some tenants.
“We’re not sure how many that’s going to be at this particular point until we can get back in the building and do a more definitive assessment of rooms and see if it’s habitable or not,” said Ouellette.
As well as Powell River professional and auxiliary firefighters who responded to the incident, RCMP, BC Ambulance Service paramedics, emergency services and City of Powell River crews were also in attendance.
Emergency crews remained on scene into the afternoon. The fire is now under investigation.
AUDIO – Comments from Dan Ouellette of Powell River Fire Rescue.