July 23, 2014 11:26 am

West end condo blaze causes $10M in damages

WATCH ABOVE: Edmontonians displaced by a devastating condo fire learn more about what’s next. Shallima Maharaj reports.

EDMONTON – Hundreds of residents displaced by a $10 million condo fire packed a west Edmonton church Tuesday evening, hopeful for answers. What some learned is that it may be up to a year-and-a-half before they can move back into their homes.

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The blaze that displaced roughly 400 people broke out early Monday morning at the South Hamptons condo complex, a four-storey building located just off 199 Street and Lessard Road.

Fire investigators have since determined that the fire was caused by a cigarette extinguished in a flower pot.

“They’re extinguishing in a planter pot that they expect is dirt. It’s an organic compound and it’s got peat moss in it and various other things. Sometimes those compounds have other combustible materials within the planting soil,” explained Daryl Brennan, the city’s chief of fire investigations.

“It’s just stupidity,” said Adam Bennett. “I have friends who lost everything.”

Bennett and his wife had been living in one of the fourth floor suites until they bought a house recently and rented out their suite this month.

It’s still unclear what, if anything, will be salvageable from suites that bore the brunt of the damage.

“It’s a shame that that many people have to pay the consequences of one [person’s] cigarette,” said David Morin, who’s been living in the building since April.

Even though he’s a smoker, Morin would support banning smoking in condo buildings to prevent future fires.

That may be easier said than done, though.

“Any condo corporation could pass a set of bylaws that would prevent smoking on condominium property or individual units,” said lawyer Robert Noce. “The problem, of course, is getting 75 per cent of owners…to support a change in the bylaws. And the other part, of course, is the enforcement provisions.”

READ MORE: Fire ravages west Edmonton condo building 

Residents have been told that, starting Thursday, they’ll be scheduled in 20-minute increments to take what they need from their suites.

According to the condo board, “longer blocks of time to allow residents to recover larger items will be scheduled over the next several weeks. Over the next few days…access will be granted to retrieve vehicles.”

“The north side of the building, I think they said everyone has to find a different place to live,” Morin said.

Displaced residents who are in need of food, shelter, or clothing can call the Red Cross at 1-888-800-6493.

The River West Christian Church has also been helping affected residents, taking in dozens of people the night of the fire.

“We had chairs and open areas for people to lie down and had the coffee on — just some of those simple comforts,” said Kent Dixon from the church.

“For us to be able to help people out that have a need and just open our doors, that was important.”

Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society is also accepting donations to meet residents’ immediate needs.

At this time, staff are asking for the following items:

  • New pillows
  • New towels
  • New, unopened toiletries
  • Dish sets
  • Pots and pans
  • Toasters
  • Coffee pots
  • Linens

With files from Shallima Maharaj, Global News

© Shaw Media, 2014

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