A mattress on fire gutted the second floor hallway at Town Park Apartments C-block Jan. 17. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue images)

A mattress on fire gutted the second floor hallway at Town Park Apartments C-block Jan. 17. (Port Hardy Fire Rescue images)

‘Suspicious’ Port Hardy apartment fire could keep tenants out of their homes for months

A burning mattress created smoke and heat, causing several tenants to jump from windows

A hallway fire in a Port Hardy apartment building that ousted dozens of people from their homes late Sunday is considered suspicious, say RCMP, and an investigation is ongoing.

The fire started in the second floor hallway of Town Park Apartments C-block at around 11:30 p.m on Jan. 17. It quickly engulfed the hallway, pumping heat and smoke through the building. A mattress was found on fire in the hallway, but officials would not confirm whether it was intentionally set alight.

RELATED: Apartment fire in Port Hardy forces residents to jump from building

RELATED: One person dead, more injured, displaced as fire guts North Cowichan apartment units

Andrew Dawson lives on the second floor with his wife and uncle. Earlier that night he says someone pulled the fire alarm, and shortly after the building manager sorted that out, the smoke detector went off.

“I usually don’t react because they’re so sensitive, they go off all the time. You open your shower and steam will set it off,” he said. But that night for some reason he went to check, and found an actual fire.

Dawson ran down the hallway banging on doors, yelling for people to get out. Outside, he found his wife, uncle and uncle’s girlfriend at the window trying to climb down with blankets. Dawson could see it billowing out the neighbour’s window, who had left their hallway door open.

“I started screaming, jump, I’ll catch you just jump, I was pleading,” he said. They dropped while he tried to break their fall.

A handful of other residents jumped out of second floor windows when they found the hallway exit blocked by smoke, including Dawson’s sister, who broke her leg.

A dog, Dex, also broke its forepaw when he was thrown out of the building.

It could be months before residents are allowed back inside. Parallel 50 Realty and Property Management is working with insurance adjusters to assess the damage to the 15 suites, but it won’t be quick.

“You’ve got a building that just had extensive smoke damage. You have to make sure it’s safe before we can even determine how much work needs to be done,” said Parallel 50 CEO Dale Mailman.

Emergency Support Services (ESS) was called in the early hours of Jan. 18, to coordinate housing the tenants in the interim. They have 25 people in hotels, three are in hospital, and a few others had family or friends to stay with.

The automatic 72-hour ESS support period has already been extended for another three days. After that, no one can say yet what will happen, but Port Hardy ESS volunteer Susan Bjarnason said no one will be left stranded.

Port Hardy Fire Rescue crews doused the fire quickly. It was short-lived due to lack of fuel and oxygen in the hall, but was hot and intense with smoke. Crews were on scene for over three hours ventilating and securing the building. All six Port Hardy fire trucks were on site with over 30 firefighters.

A truck with five crew from Port McNeill also came as back up. BC Ambulance Services, Port Hardy RCMP and BC Hydro crews were all on scene as well.

Anyone has knowledge of this incident or who is responsible, is asked to contact the Port Hardy RCMP at 250-949-6335. If you wish to remain anonymous, please call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or visit their web site at www.crimestoppers.ca.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Do you have something to add to this story or something else we should report on? Email: zoe.ducklow@blackpress.ca


Fire evacuation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Duncan’s City Hall will get a seismic assessment this year. (File photo)
Duncan City Hall to get seismic assessment

City hopes grants will help pay for seismic upgrades

Vandals damaged a picnic table at Spectacle Lake Park with a chainsaw earlier this month. (Linda Mills photo)
Editorial: Vandals make victims of us all

It is infuriating when people target public property for vandalism.

Vees' Jack Barnes picked up his second goal of the season in the team's 5-0 win over Merritt on Saturday. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Cowichan Capitals in deadline dilemma with 20-year-old players

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

The latest homeless count in the Valley found 129 in a 24-hour period. (File photo)
Latest homeless count reveals 129 in the Cowichan Valley

But local officials believe number is higher

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deals, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Vancouver Coastal Health region

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
Island-raised musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah closes out the movie

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing escalates to stabbing in Nanaimo

Victim, struck with coffee cup and then stabbed, suffers minor injuries; suspect arrested

A battery electric-hybrid ferry, pictured here, is expected to make its way to Vancouver Island in late 2021, says B.C. Ferries. (Submitted photo)
Hybrid ferry for Gabriola-Nanaimo route launches in shipyard in Europe

Two hybrid vessels to replace MV Quinsam by early 2022, says B.C. Ferries

The Pacheedaht First Nation is planning a $1-million expansion to its campground in Port Renfrew. (Pixabay photo)
Expanded camping announced for Pacheedaht Campground

$1-million project is part of the B.C. Rural Economic Recovery program

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

The Port of Nanaimo has signed a 50-year-agreement with DP World around short-sea shipping operations at Duke Point Terminal. (News Bulletin file photo)
Lease ‘important first step’ in $105-million Nanaimo port expansion project

Port of Nanaimo and DP World sign 50-year shipping operations agreement for Duke Point

A BC Ferries worker out of Swartz Bay has tested positive for COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Swartz Bay ferry worker confirmed to have COVID-19

Employees in direct contact with worker now isolating

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

Most Read