Watch above: The developers of a Fort McMurray housing complex destroyed by fire say its loss is a big hit to the community. It was slated to become affordable housing in a market that’s already strapped for living space. Quinn Ohler reports.
EDMONTON – A fire that broke out at a condo building in Fort McMurray Friday afternoon destroyed what was going to be an affordable housing complex.
“We anticipate that the cost to rebuild the structure will be in the vicinity of $15 to $18 million, is the best guess we have at the time,” said Ben Dutton, CEO of the Casman Group, which was constructing the building.
Around the lunch hour, a huge plume of black smoke could be seen billowing from the Siltstone Place complex — a 174-unit development in the Timberlea neighbourhood.
While the four-level building was not yet occupied by tenants, the fire did cause damage to around 80 units. It was one of two apartment-style condo buildings that was part of the project.
“We will be pushing next week to recover the site as quickly as we can and move forward to occupancy with the units that were not damaged in the fire,” Dutton said.
“Fort McMurray does need affordable housing, so the project is quite significant in terms of the needs of the community.”
Construction crews were at the scene when it started; however, an evacuation plan was put into effect, and all contractors and employees managed to escape without injury.
One firefighter suffered a minor injury to his arm.
Witnesses say fire crews were quick to respond, bringing the flames under control by 3:30 p.m.
On Monday, officials said the investigation had determined that the fire started after a piece of equipment hit a gas line at the Casman Construction project. The soil mixer tore a six-inch gash in the line and released natural gas into the air. The mixer also struck the main building’s power line and other utility lines. A spark from the mixer’s teeth ignited the gas and started the fire.
The building was fully sprinklered, but the sprinkler system had not yet been charged.
WATCH: Shaw’s Craig Momney, who lives just down the street from the fire in Fort McMurray, captured the following footage for Global News.
Crews from Fort McMurray’s Regional Emergency Services, Saprae Creek Volunteer Fire Department, Syncrude and Suncor were on scene providing support.
Fire crews were expected to remain on scene through the night, putting out hot spots and making sure the building is safe.
This isn’t the first fire in Fort McMurray to destroy dozens of suites. Back in February 2012, fire ripped through the north wing of Parsons Landing.
Investigators determined that fire was started on a balcony either by a propane barbecue or improperly disposed of smoking materials.
With files from Quinn Ohler, Global News
© Shaw Media, 2014