More than a dozen New West residents have been displaced from their homes following a fire on Saturday afternoon.
Members of New Westminster and Fire Rescue Services were called to 836 12th St. at about 3:15 p.m. on Saturday, April 2.
“On arrival, crews saw heavy smoke and flame exiting from a balcony, and it appeared to extend toward the roof,” acting fire Chief Erin Williams told the Record. “They began an initial exterior attack, and that was quickly followed by an interior attack. At that point the incident commander recognized that it had extended to a second suite, so they initiated a second alarm.”
During a first-alarm fire, all available apparatus from New Westminster Fire and Rescue Services was deployed to the scene. As part of a second-alarm fire, New West called for assistance from a “mutual aid agency” that can provide additional assistance.
“In this case it was Richmond Fire who filled that with a second engine company,” Williams said. “They attended the fire. We needed crews there immediately because we had another apparatus attached to a separate incident, which left us a little bit short.”
At its peak, 21 firefighters and a duty chief attended the fire at London Place. The low-rise buildings have commercial units on ground floor and residential units above.
“The crews attacked it from the roof with piercing nozzles because the fire had extended into the attic structure,” Williams said. “It was quite effective. It was a really good tactic that stopped the fire from spreading to more units.”
Williams said three residential units suffered fire damage, while multiple units sustained smoke and water damage. He said the fire was extinguished at 4:45 p.m.
Williams said the Emergency Support Services (ESS) program, which operates out of the emergency management office at the fire department, secured accommodations for the displaced residents at the Inn at the Quay.
“Thirteen individuals required housing by ESS at the Quay,” he said. “That will carry them through for the first 72 hours.”
Williams said some residents were able to get into their homes briefly, before a bus transported them to their temporary lodgings.
“That’s normal practice,” he said. “If we are able to and the air quality is tested prior to and its OK, we allow people to be escorted back into their units to get medications or any personal belongings they’ll need for the first 72 hours.”
Williams said no injuries were reported to residents or firefighters. Social media reports suggested some firefighters may have suffered smoke inhalation while fighting the fire, but that wasn’t the case.
“That was just part our rehab program. As people come out of the fire, what we do is have them attend BC Ambulance, where their blood pressures are taken and their baseline vitals are taken,” Williams explained. “Then they get a chance to rehab and cool down before going back in.”
Williams said the cause of the fire has not been determined but is not believed to be suspicious. He said New Westminster Fire and Rescue Services and the New Westminster Police Department will be doing a joint investigation, which is a typical response to a fire.
“We are still in the investigation process,” he said. “That will probably continue for the rest of this week.”
Williams said fire investigators will enter the damaged suites collect anything that may help determine the cause and origin of the fire.
“The crews just did a fantastic job of a really aggressive initial interior fire attack, which likely saved further damage to the building,” he said.
Young Suh, who runs the martial arts gym next door to the fire site, wrote a letter to the Record expressing a “huge thanks” to all first responders who attended the fire. Suh cited the efforts of fire crews and police officers who attended, as well as the assistant deputy chief who provided condo residents with updates, Emergency Support Services personnel who offered assistance to residents and TransLink which provided a bus where displaced residents could get in out of the cold and rainy weather.
“It is tragic to see what happened, but also heartwarming to see how everything unfolded,” Suh wrote. “A total team effort.”