Watch above: For the second time in less than a year, fire destroyed donations for vulnerable clients at the organization’s thrift shop. Laurel Gregory tells us how the community has stepped up.
EDMONTON – A fire that leveled the Bissell Centre Thrift Shoppe Saturday evening destroyed more than 100,000 pieces of clothing and household goods destined for Edmonton’s homeless and less fortunate.
“Today key staff gathered together to strategize and draft an emergency response plan to continue supporting our affected employees and the 5,000 to 6,000 clients affected by the fire,” said Bissell Centre CEO Mark Holmgren on Monday.
It’s the second fire to hit the Bissell Centre in nine months. Fire investigators are still trying to determine what started it, but early indications suggest it may have been electrical.
Damages to the Bissell Centre Thrift Shoppe’s temporary location in central Edmonton are pegged at $950,000.
Edmonton Fire Rescue crews were called to the building, located at 118 Ave. and 80 St., shortly after 6 p.m. on Saturday.
The store had already closed for the day, but there were three Bissell Centre employees inside when the fire broke out. They were able to get out of the building without injury.
About 25 firefighters from five units were initially called in to fight the fire. Shortly after 6:30 p.m. more crews were called in to assist. At its peak, there were upwards of 50 firefighters working to contain the blaze.
“We had to pull our crews out because there was a fear that the roofs were going to cave in, so we pulled everybody out and went to an exterior attack,” said Deputy Chief Barry Lamb.
Bissell Centre’s CEO says all of the items in the store were destroyed in the blaze, which will greatly impact many people who rely on the services they offer.
“Not only does the fire impact those who shop there for low cost clothing and household items, it impacts the 13 staff who depend on the store for their livelihood,” Mark Holmgren said in a statement on the organization’s website.
“I would be dishonest if I didn’t say this is heartbreaking.”
The Bissell Centre says it is now in urgent need of clothing for all seasons, ages, and gender. An interim storage, a Sea-Can unit, has been situated south of the Bissell Centre East Building located at 10527-96 Street. Staff and volunteers will be on hand to accept donations daily 10:00 am to 5:00pm beginning Tuesday, June 24 (with the exception of Sunday).
Financial donations to further support the Bissell can be made direct by accessing the donations form.
For more information on how you can help, check out the full Q & A posted on Bissell Centre’s website.
The building is a temporary location for the Thrift Shoppe; fire tore through Bissell Centre’s original building at 118 Avenue and 88 Street last fall. That location is expected to be up and running again in September.
“We are devastated to experience such a disaster after our permanent store location experienced a terrible fire in September 2013,” Holmgren said.
Thousands of people quickly took to social media to offer their support over the weekend.
WATCH: Social media reacts to Bissell Centre fire
“The Bissell Centre is fortunate to be supported by such a caring Edmonton Community,” said Devin Komarniski of the Bissell Centre, “and we wish to thank each and every person and organization for the countless thoughts, calls, emails and positive wishes during this difficult time.”
*Editor’s note: This story was originally published at 7:21 p.m. MT Saturday, June 21, 2014. It was updated at 11:57 a.m. Sunday to include comments from Edmonton Fire Rescue and Bissell Centre, and again at 5:10 p.m. on Monday to include information about donations.
© Shaw Media, 2014