The Salvation Army has been overwhelmed with donations from the community at large for 56 people who lost their homes in the Athol Street apartment fire last week. So much so that Capt. Neil Wilkinson has asked people to stop bringing donations.
“The big story today is ‘stop’,” he said Friday afternoon. The gymnasium at the Salvation Army compound had been empty at 4 p.m. on Tuesday and by Friday it was overflowing with donations of clothing, furniture, bedding, linens toiletries, toys, books and even pet food.
Volunteers were dropping in to the facility in such high numbers that the Salvation Army couldn’t keep up with registering them properly.
“We can’t handle any more,” Wilkinson said. “We’ve got all the product that we need, but now we’ve run out of food.”
He said the food bank was taxed to the max in order to provide food to those who lost everything in the fire. Now, they don’t have enough food to fill their regular hampers.
“We were getting low as it was, but when the displacement happened that just tipped us over the edge.”
Quality Foods donated 26 gift cards worth $250 each for families in each of the units that burned. While the donation is “amazing,” Wilkinson said, the Salvation Army needs the community’s help replenishing the food bank cupboards.
No cause found yet
The Port Alberni Fire Department has finished with the burned out building and turned it over to the insurance company and the owner, deputy fire Chief Chris Jancowski said. The fire department is working with the RCMP to figure out how the building burned.
“We were able to get into where we needed to safely and securely and examine areas we had interest in,” Jancowski said.
Port Alberni RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin Murray said the investigation will take some time to complete as there were so many residents to interview, and now persons of interest as well.
Murray said investigators haven’t been able to establish any cause for the fire yet, except that there was no evidence of the fire being electrical or “non-criminal” in nature.