More than a dozen people were forced from their homes after a fire was deliberately set in a Whyte Avenue-area apartment building early Monday morning, according to investigators.
Just after 2:20 a.m., about 24 firefighters responded to reports of alarms ringing and heavy smoke at the Whyte Champagne apartment building on 83 Avenue near 106 Street in the Old Strathcona neighbourhood.
“When they arrived, they found heavy smoke showing,” Acting District Chief Glen Maines said. “So they went in on fire attack.”
Resident John Strain said he walked through “blinding” smoke to get outside.
Another resident, Kelly Daniels, said he was awoken by the fire alarm. According to Daniels, he and another neighbour went door to door, waking up their neighbours. Daniels said it’s a pet-friendly building so some residents had to gather their animals.
“I told them: ‘Grab the babies and go!’ Whether it be your baby-baby or your kitty cat baby or your doggy baby — just grab and go! Never mind about your stuff,” Daniels said.
The fire was discovered in the hallway of the lower level of the four-storey walkup, and Edmonton Fire Rescue Services said it extended to the second floor, causing damage to several floor joists and electrical wiring.
Floors two, three and four suffered varying degrees of smoke damage to both the structure and contents, but water damage was limited to the lower level.
Edmonton Fire Rescue said the blaze was deliberately set and Edmonton police are continuing the investigation.
Maines said crews extinguished the fire quite quickly, but due to the heavy smoke, residents were not able to return home. The fire was officially put out around 4:30 a.m.
Fire investigators determined the blaze caused an estimated $675,000 in damage: $325,000 to the contents and $350,000 to the structure.
An Edmonton Transit Service bus was brought in so people had somewhere to get out of the cold.
While around two dozen people were initially forced from their homes, Edmonton Emergency Relief Services (ESRT) later confirmed 13 people had been displaced due to the fire. Nine people required help in finding temporary housing.
ESRT is asking for donations of new socks and underwear, new toiletries, and clean or gently-used clothing and shoes.
Donations can be dropped off at 10255 – 104 St. between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. from Monday to Friday.
There is no word yet on when residents will be able to return to their homes.
There were no reported injuries.