Fire Fighting in Canada

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Residents remain out of building following seniors’ home fire

Feb. 20, 2014, St. John's, N.L. – Almost 200 seniors were out of their homes for another night as officials continued to investigate the cause of a fire at an apartment complex for the elderly in St. John's, N.L.

February 20, 2014
By The Canadian Press

Feb. 20, 2014, St. John's, N.L. – Almost 200 seniors were out of their homes for another night as officials continued to investigate the cause of a fire at an apartment complex for the elderly in St. John's, N.L.

A spokesman with the Department of Advanced Education and Skills said Thursday that most of the 179 residents were staying with friends and family.

John Tompkins said 50 of them were being put up at local hotels after they were evacuated Wednesday when the fire broke out at about 4 p.m.

Five of the residents of the Maplewood apartments were taken to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation but were all released Thursday, said Eastern Health spokeswoman Zelda Burt.

Fire and police officials were on the scene and focusing on a unit on the third floor where they say the fire started. Supt. Don Byrne of the St. John's Regional Fire Department said they did not know what caused the blaze.

He said it was a tough fire to fight because crews were trying to get in the same entrance that many of the residents were using to get out, with some using walkers and wheelchairs.

"It was difficult just to get through all the elderly people who were there, bring all our lines up through a stairway and back out onto the third floor and then down two separate hallways," he said. "It was a physically demanding fire."

Despite that, he said the fire was brought under control within 30 minutes, adding that the building doesn't have sprinklers because it was built before the code required them.

Firefighters and residents also had to contend with heavy snowfall and blizzard-like conditions Wednesday that made getting in and out of the building difficult.

Many residents were taken by transit buses to city hall where they were met by family members, while others were sent to various hotels. Shelley Pardy, a spokeswoman with the municipality, said all of the residents were at city hall by 7 p.m.