Approximately 20 people were left without a roof over their heads after a large fire engulfed part of a three-storey apartment building in Calgary on Saturday.
Fire crews responded to the blaze on Kensington Road just after 6 p.m.
About 30 firefighters responded, aggressively attacking the fire from the outside before entering the building and dousing the remaining hot spots from within, officials said.
According to the Calgary Fire Department’s Central District Chief Innes Fraser, all occupants of the building self-evacuated but some pets had to be rescued.
Fraser said it appears the fire started outside of the building on a deck.
“It did get called in initially as a deck fire or a barbeque fire. The marks on the wall indicate that would be it but I don’t want to jump to any conclusions. We’ll let the investigators do their work,” he said.
“With the warm weather, people are out barbecuing and they’re forgetting some things they wouldn’t normally forget. So I want to remind everyone to be careful when using a barbecue or a firepit.
“Everybody should have a fire extinguisher handy in their home at all times.”
Jacob Whitford-Bender lives on the second floor of the building and said the fire spread quickly.
“People started running up and down the stairs saying, ‘There’s a fire. Get out as fast as possible,’ like shouting that. Even then you couldn’t really smell or feel the heat or anything,” he said.
“A few seconds after that, you could start to see the smoke… Thirty seconds after that the kitchen was oppressively hot and that just permeated the entire apartment.”
An employee of the neighbouring gas station and U-Haul vendor was picking up her vehicle when she saw the fire develop.
“We saw a puff of black smoke. We pulled in,” Justice Marie Martin-Bergdahl said Sunday.
“We watched the barbecue go… and we started moving U-Hauls, screaming at people to get out of the building.”
Another employee went into the apartment to make residents aware of the fire. Martin-Bergdahl and other coworkers started moving trucks that were parked next to the building, trying to prevent further damage.
Fraser said occupants would not be able to get back inside the building Saturday night.
Fire investigators remained on scene on Sunday.
Crews responded to other fires Saturday in Falconridge, Prestwick and Sandstone. None had injuries, the CFD said.
– With files from Adam Toy