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Fire ravages apartment building in west Edmonton’s Callingwood area

WATCH ABOVE: A fire broke out at a west Edmonton apartment complex on Thursday. Mary Jean Slaunwhide was one of the residents inside at the time and told Global News about the dramatic steps she had to take to get out.

A fire broke out at a west Edmonton apartment complex Thursday morning in the Callingwood area, where crews arrived to find some residents on their balconies.

Edmonton Fire Rescue said 40 firefighters were called to the Westridge Estates B apartment complex at 7611-172 St. just after 8 a.m. and arrived on scene within five minutes.

The fire began in a third floor suite and quickly spread. Flames could be seen shooting from the roof of the four-storey apartment building, which is owned by Boardwalk rentals.

Third-floor-resident Kerry Upright said she woke up to fire alarms going off.

“I heard screaming outside on the balcony,” she told Global News.

“I went to the balcony and seen a guy almost jump off the balcony.”

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She said she also saw smoke coming from his suite. She quickly gathered her things and left the building through a smoke-filled hallway. “It was pitch black and it was covered in smoke.”

Watch below: We’re learning more about the measures people took as they fled a fire at a west Edmonton apartment block on Thursday. Nancy Carlson has the details.

Edmontonians take desperate measures to escape apartment building fire
Edmontonians take desperate measures to escape apartment building fire

Upright thought there might have been a woman in the third-floor suite as well.

First-floor resident Philipp Lengfeld didn’t think there was an emergency at first, because maintenance was scheduled. But then he heard screaming and went outside.

“So we went outside and we seen some girl, she went outside and jumped from a balcony to the second floor, kinda below it,” he described.

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Lengfeld and his girlfriend grabbed some paperwork and their two cats, Twitch and Shadow, before evacuating as well.

No injuries were reported, but one resident had to be rescued from the fourth floor.

“A lady with some mobility issues,” Edmonton Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Scott Macdonald explained. “We just had to go up and help her down. She wasn’t trapped by the fire or anything, it was just mobility.”

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Alberta Health Services said two patients were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. AHS sent several ambulances and a multi-person bus to the scene.

Fire crews evacuated 102 suites in the apartment building, which has been in the area for a few decades.

Watch below: A large fire at a west Edmonton apartment building forces people from their homes Thursday morning. The flames erupted from a third-storey suite just after 8 a.m. Kent Morrison has the details. 

West Edmonton apartment fire forces dozens from their homes
West Edmonton apartment fire forces dozens from their homes

Edmonton transit buses were brought in and residents were loaded into them to be counted.

Lengfeld said he will be staying with his parents until he can return home. It’s not known when that will happen, as fire investigators are still in the early stages of their investigation.

The extent of the damage is not yet known but one local fire inspector, who has 25 years of firefighting experience, said the crews’ quick response Thursday morning was critical in fighting the blaze.

“It’s the first 10 minutes of a fire that are most critical,” said Dean Taylor, who now runs a safety training company called Western Canada Fire and First Aid.

“The first 10 minutes dictates whether it’s going to be safe enough, with a margin of error, for firefighters to go in and do what we call an interior fire attack.”

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Taylor said condo fires can produce more hazards than a single-family home, for example, because of the sheer size of the structure and the number of people inside.

“A common example are the fire-rated doors. How often have you gone into a structure and found the doors are blocked open with an aluminum wedge? That is going to contribute to the spread of fire.”

Watch below: As large and destructive as a fire at a west Edmonton apartment building was Thursday morning, fire crews say they’re happy because it could have been much worse. Fletcher Kent reports. 

Fire crews say west Edmonton apartment fire could have been worse
Fire crews say west Edmonton apartment fire could have been worse

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

Watch below: Video from our Global 1 news helicopter of a large fire at the Westridge Estates B apartment complex in west Edmonton’s Callingwood area.

Large apartment building fire in west Edmonton’s Callingwood area
Large apartment building fire in west Edmonton’s Callingwood area