Firefighters watch for a flare up at the back of an apartment unit on Fourth Avenue in Port Alberni

Residents homeless as low-rent building burns in Port Alberni

Two suites in a low-rent building on Fourth Avenue are destroyed after a morning fire. Everyone in the building escaped injury.

Nearly a dozen people living in a low-rent building on lower Fourth Avenue in Port Alberni have been displaced after a fire tore through at least two second-storey units, Friday morning (July 26, 2013).

The fire was concentrated in the back of the building on the second floor of the eight-unit building, fire Chief Tim Pley said. Firefighters swept both floors and confirmed no one was left in the building.

“There will be significant damage to one or two suites,” Pley said. Firefighters had to cut through the roof of one unit to ensure the fire was completely out. Hydro has been cut to the building as well.

“I expect there will be nobody living there right now,” Pley added.

A complex right beside the burning building was also evacuated as a precaution, but there was no damage to the second building, he said.

A representative from Emergency Social Services was on site assisting residents in finding accommodation. Most escaped the building with just the clothes on their back, including one barefoot man clad only in shorts.

Tim Sutherland, who has lived in a downstairs unit for the past month, said he heard someone yelling outside that the building was on fire, so he went outside.

Bill Williams said he was walking down Burde Street when he noticed smoke coming out the back window of the building, which is visible from Burde and Fifth Avenue across a vacant lot. Williams said he stopped a truck and told the driver to call 911. “It was a small trickle of smoke, then big black smoke, then big flames started coming out,” he said.

“I heard people shouting at everyone ‘fire, get out!’,” he said.

Three fire engines from Port Alberni, two chiefs and one fire prevention officer responded as well as one engine each from Sproat Lake and Beaver Creek volunteer departments as mutual aid backup.

Port Alberni RCMP Const. René Royer said it is too early to determine what caused the fire.