WATCH: Fire officials believe a cigarette butt caused a multi-million fire in west Edmonton Monday morning. Quinn Ohler reports.
EDMONTON – A fire ripped through a west Edmonton condominium early Monday morning, forcing about 400 people from their homes, and causing millions in damage.
“Early indications are that it’s a improperly disposed of smoking material,” said Edmonton District Fire Chief Don Cherniawski.
“It’s become a bit of a problem in the past. People don’t realize that these kind of things happen quite regularly.”
Edmonton Fire Rescue estimates the fire caused between $7 and $8 million dollars in damages.
As the sun came up, it became clear the roof in parts of the building was gone, leaving behind the charred remnants of trusses.
The fire began around 1:30 a.m. at Park Place South Hamptons, a four-storey condo building at 1520 Hammond Gate NW, which is located just off 199 Street and Lessard Road.
WATCH BELOW: Raw video from viewer Steve Kinney of the massive flames.
“Flames were coming through the roof upon arrival,” said Edmonton Fire District Fire Chief Trevor Whyte.
Fire was spotted going up from the fourth floor into the eaves and roof of the building. Crews began to attack the fire from inside, but the flames moved quickly.
“When they got us out, it was just a balcony on fire,” said Jonathan Brenton, who has lived in the building for over five years.
“I managed to snag my cat and myself and run out the door.”
“As soon as it got in the roof, it just started going everywhere,” Brenton added.
A second alarm was declared about 15 minutes after the first crew arrived.
“The ceilings were coming down on the guys inside. At that point it’s time to get out and try to cut your losses and contain the damage to as little as possible, without impacting the rest of the building,” Whyte said.
The fire was declared under control around 3:15 a.m.
“It was a hard-fought battle,” said Cherniawski.
“Due to the sort of limited access in to the area here, there was no access to the back of the building, so a lot of the fire fighting had to be done strictly through the front of the building here. The crews did a great job … containing the spread of that fire to the adjoining wings and containing it to the middle of the building.”
Whyte said the centre of building was heavily damaged.
“There doesn’t appear to be anybody unaccounted for, other than some pets the residents are concerned about, obviously,” Whyte said, adding there didn’t appear to be any injuries.
Buses were brought in for evacuated residents to sit in, and five volunteers with the Canadian Red Cross responded. The organization will provide food, clothing, shelter, support and information over the next 72 hours for those who need it.
WATCH BELOW: Residents unable to return home Monday night following fire
Red Cross volunteers have helped 72 residents impacted by the fire so far. The organization will continue to meet with those affected at an evacuation centre to do needs assessments and provide emergency support. Any residents affected by the fire who need Red Cross assistance can call 1-888-800-6493.
An information session for the residents will be held Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the River West Christian Church.
Representatives from the management company, insurer and Edmonton Fire Rescue will be in attendance.
Brenton is hoping for answers soon.
“Basically everybody that we’ve talked to told us it’s going to be a couple of days before we hear back, whether our suites are damaged or if we can even be allowed in there to take a look.”
“You always see it and are like, ‘ah yeah, that will never happen to me’ … and then you get up in the middle of the night and see your house on fire.”
WATCH BELOW: Raw video from a Global viewer taken a dawn, showing the aftermath of the early morning fire.