A New Westminster family's savings went up in smoke on the weekend after fire destroyed their home.
Tenants of a third floor suite in one of the apartments at Massey Place visited their burned out suite Tuesday afternoon, searching for any items that could be salvaged from the weekend fire.
Fire broke out in an apartment building at 845 McBride Blvd. on Saturday, Nov. 17 about 5: 30 p.m. Five suites are still unable to be occupied as a result of the fire that originated in a kitchen of a first-floor suite.
Fire chief Tim Armstrong said the fire crew reported heavy smoke and flames coming from the rear of the building.
"They quickly knocked down the fire in the kitchen," he said. "Because of the type of construction, it had already gotten into the walls and started traveling vertically up to the second and third floors."
Armstrong said crews bypassed the second floor and went to the third floor, where they checked to see if the fire had extended up through the walls. He noted that the vents behind stoves in older buildings were designed in a way that makes it "ideal" for fire to travel upwards if it gets into the vents.
Finding that the fire had already extended to the third floor, firefighters went to the fourth floor and stopped the fire there, ensuring that it didn't progress to the fifth and sixth floors.
"They did a brilliant stop there," Armstrong said. "That building, if it had progressed to the roof, we could have lost a good portion of the building."
New Westminster Fire and Rescue Services estimates the fire caused about $300,000 damage to the building.
Armstrong surveyed the damage on Monday afternoon and found that a third floor suite suffered the most damage.
"It broke through the walls on the third floor and got into a closet. The closet was packed full of clothing. That ignited," he said. "That suite has substantial damage. There isn't anything salvageable."
Chantal McIntyre, whose suite on the fifth floor wasn't harmed in the fire, has been helping the family deal with the aftermath of the fire. The family had no insurance and has lost everything in their suite.
The family - a mother with two adult children and a 15-year-old girl - has been saving money to buy a home of their own. Tragically, the family members had withdrawn funds from their individual bank accounts so they could put it in one account for a down payment.
"Their money, everything has been burnt," McIntyre said of cash that was placed in a closet until they could do their banking.
Following the fire, the family was staying with relatives who lived in the building. McIntyre was disappointed by the lack of assistance offered by community organizations and shocked at the need for a credit card in order to access hotel accommodations for 72 hours following the fire.
"That is crazy," she said. "They wouldn't let any of us use our credit card. I am getting the runaround everywhere."
Cheryl Meyers, manager of victims services and emergency social services, said staff and volunteers attended the fire and tried to support tenants who were evacuated from the building.
She said people whose homes were impacted by the fire did not want hotel accommodations that were offered by emergency social services, choosing to go elsewhere instead.
"The one family that wanted assistance found alternative arrangements that night," she said.
Learning Tuesday morning that the family was still in need of accommodations, Meyers made arrangements for the family to be provided with three days of emergency services.
"Emergency social services are going to be contributing three days of services for the family. That means hotel, food, clothing. We will give them some vouchers," she said of arrangements that were being made. "What we are trying to do is take the pressure off for the next 72 hours so they have some clothing and are able to be warm and comfortable."
According to Meyers, the family was offered hotel accommodations on Saturday night but opted to stay with relatives.
"We had two (hotel) suites lined up for one night," she said. "This one didn't meet their needs. That is why they chose to go to family members instead."
Although the fire occurred on Saturday night, Victims Assistance has received an extension and is still able to offer assistance for 72 hours.
Meyers stressed the need for a credit card isn't a requirement of Victims Assistance.
"Most hotels require that," she said. "Under the 72 emergency social services allotment, the people have to provide a credit card."
The credit card is required in case there are damages to the hotel suite, long-distance phone calls or food ordered that's not covered by vouchers.
"That is not our requirement at all. The province can't do anything about it. It is up to the individual hotels whether they require or don't require a credit card. Most of them do," Meyers said. "That is a very difficult requirement."
McIntyre is working on plans to collect donations to help the family get reestab-lished.
"I know being born and raised here that we are here to help," she said. "I am hoping the community will get behind them and show them this is a great place to be."
McIntyre said a counsellor at the high school provided a backpack and school supplies for the high school student. Hollyburn Properties, the property management company that oversees the building, provided a couple of boxes of food and a microwave oven.
Although the family of four had been sleeping on the floor of a relative who lived in a one-bedroom suite in the building, they may be able to move into a suite in one of the other buildings at Massey Place.
Armstrong said the fire department called in an additional 10 firefighters to tackle the three-alarm blaze.
With every piece of apparatus in the city at the scene, Richmond and Delta fire departments were notified that the Queensborough hall was unstaffed and Burnaby was informed of the potential need for assistance in the event of other calls.