Fort Saskatchewan officials evacuated a four-storey condo building Friday after engineers determined it was “structurally unsafe.”
The evacuation order was issued at 8 a.m.
The residential condo complex — located at 9930100 Ave. — has 44 suites. It was built in 2003.
“The residents first reported the flooring seemed to be somewhat spongy,” said Brad Ward, director of Protective Services and Emergency Management in Fort Saskatchewan.
“They called their building/condo association who, upon further inspection, decided to contact a structural engineer. The engineer did a preliminary examination, thought there was a number of floor joists that had been damaged or had been improperly constructed.
“On further examination — and this took the better part of a week — Thursday night at around 6 p.m., they determined there was far more floor joists compromised than initially thought,” Ward explained. “At that point, the structural engineer concurred with the building safety code officer and recommended that the building be evacuated.”
The city was made aware of residents’ concerns last Friday, the mayor said.
“Initially we believed repairs could be made while the residents were in the building, but under further investigation it was determined that the structure wasn’t safe,” Mayor Gale Katchur said. “Based on that, we contacted our emergency operations team… They came in and said it was time to evacuate the building.”
The floor joists are designed to carry the weight of floors above, Ward explained.
“With some of those critical pieces being compromised, there was a risk that some of those might have failed. It’s unknown what the full extent of that might have been — whether it might have been just a localized failure or whether it might have been something more serious — and given the number of floor joists, it was thought that it was a life safety consideration.”
The builder was not identified Friday.
The city’s incident management team, the Red Cross and Alberta Health Services were on scene Friday helping residents.
Ten suites were vacant. Of the 26 households affected, some have found temporary accommodations with friends or family. The others are being put up in hotels and motels, Ward said.
Law enforcement officers went door to door Friday morning, alerting residents about the evacuation order. People had about 30 minutes to grab essential items and leave the building.
“Our purpose in here is life safety,” Ward said.
“The priorities we always follow in incident command are preservation of life, incident stabilization and then the property and environment. Our whole focus today was to get people out of their suites safely and quickly and to make sure they had the opportunity to grab the most essential pieces and things that are most valuable to them.
“There has been some opportunity for them to go back in if they’d overlooked something. Larger items, unfortunately… will remain in the suite until such time the engineer can tell us it’s safe to move those pieces.”
Ward said the next steps will be to shore up the foundation and the floor joists enough that it’s safe for engineers to get in and complete a full comprehensive review.
The structural engineer wasn’t sure about the timeline. Residents will be out indefinitely.
“The [evacuation] order will stand until such time the engineer provides the all-clear that they’re good to re-enter the premises.”
The neighbouring building (9932 100 Ave.) is not affected, the city said. It was built two years before the other condo building and “has different design and different construction.”