After the Parkland Apartments fire in Duncan on Sunday, the big push at the site is to determine how soon displaced residents can return to their suites.
That will be soon, for at least some people.
“We hope to get them back by Saturday,” Duncan Fire Chief Mike McKinlay said Wednesday.
“I’m not sure exactly how many people will be out because I’m not sure how many suites are damaged. What the plan is right now is to block off from the firewall to Dobson Street, that section where the fire was. There is work to be done on all of those. I’m estimating that there are 24 suites that will be out of service in the full building. There are 96 suites in the whole place.”
Asked how long it would take for the uninhabitable suites to be back to livable condition, McKinlay said, “I’m not going to even estimate on that one.”
Firefighters have gone in and checked for pets and removed medications for the residents.
“It’s going to be a little bit longer,” McKinlay said. “They’re going to be out of their rooms a little bit longer as we mitigate because of fire safety, getting everything back on.
“I know the water’s back on, the power’s back on. I think they were going to get gas up and running today. After that, then it’s a matter of determining if it’s actually safe for them to get back to their suites. I think all the pets were finally found. I think our object right now is to get them back in on Saturday. That’s our objective right now.”
On Thursday, Island Savings Centre administrator John Elzinga said, “We’ve received yesterday an extension from the province for 72 more hours of services so that will take us from Wednesday through to Saturday. We’re continuing to provide meals here in the Heritage Hall at the Island Savings Centre.”
Displaced residents are staying in the gymnasium on the main floor of the Island Savings Centre.
“We’ve had Red Cross on site, and we’re working with our partner agencies like Red Cross, like Salvation Army, and the ministry to determine what those ongoing needs are. We’re in the middle of doing some needs assessments yesterday, today, and probably tomorrow. We’ll be seeing what we can do to meet those long term needs.”
Elzinga said housing is needed.
“If anybody has any housing on a long term basis, if they are looking to rent, our Public Safety Division would like to know; people can phone the CVRD at 250-746-2500 and ask for the Public Safety Division and just pass along any prospective housing arrangements.”
Residents had been allowed back into the building Wednesday to get necessary items, or even to water plants, but they weren’t staying long.
Outside, trucks from the many tradespeople working on repairs clogged the parking lot while a security team kept an eye on everyone entering the site. Some firefighters were also on scene to assist with getting tenants in and out.
Perry Winda, who lives in a third floor apartment at Parkland, spoke to the Citizen on Wednesday afternoon when he visited the apartment building to pick up some essentials.
He said he was alerted by police shouting for people to evacuate the building.
“I thought I heard something. I’m deaf but when I put my hearing aid on, I heard the alarm. I thought it was a false alarm because a couple of days before somebody pulled the alarm. I looked out the patio door and there was police officers yelling at us to get out. I got out and I noticed the power was out and the emergency light was on. I knew I couldn’t take the elevator, so I took the stairs. There was no light, no emergency light there. It was pitch black. I was having a hard time walking down the stairs. I got bad legs. By the time I got to the main floor, I was shaking. My legs were all numb. I didn’t know what to do. And I had to work that afternoon; I just got this new job. My boss heard about it and he said: ‘Perry, you can’t work today. Take today and tomorrow off.’”
He said it wasn’t really smoky in the hallways where he was, but “I smelt it really heavy. A couple of days ago when I went there, it still smelt heavily of smoke.”
So far, he’s been able to speak to his insurance company about the fire and they are will be seeing to help him “to get new clothes and all that”.