‘I saw my life going up in flames’: Abbotsford fire displaces over 100 people

Click to play video: 'More than 100 people displaced by Abbotsford apartment complex fire' More than 100 people displaced by Abbotsford apartment complex fire
More than 100 residents of an Abbotsford apartment complex are now scrambling to find temporary accommodations after they were displaced by a massive fire that ripped through their building overnight. Grace Ke reports – Feb 14, 2021

Firefighters say more than 100 people have been displaced after a massive fire tore through an Abbotsford apartment complex overnight.

The fire broke out in the building near Delair Street and Sumas Way around 1 a.m.

There were no reports of injuries, but a number of residents lost everything.

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RAW VIDEO: Crews battle massive fire at Abbotsford apartment complex – Feb 14, 2021

“I saw my life going up in flames,” said James Brackett, who fled to safety with his wife and son, in an interview with Global News.

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“When we got out of the building into the parking lot, I looked up and the whole backside of the building was on fire. … My suite, it’s just completely gone.”

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Damage to the two-building complex is extensive, with one structure completely gutted and the other currently without utilities.

Assistant Fire Chief Ron Hull said he hoped residents could return to the second building sooner than later.

He added that firefighters had swept the more damaged building, and located 10 to 15 cats and other pets.

“That was a bonus. We knew they would probably be OK. We just couldn’t go in,” he said.

Residents took shelter in a nearby church, and emergency social services arranged four days of hotel accommodation for those displaced.

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Julie Bratkowski and Martin Fontaine escaped the building with nothing but their pyjamas and coats.

“I have nothing. Our whole place went up in flames and it’s done — don’t even have my rings,” Bratkowski said.

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“There’s a lot of people who don’t have insurance, a lot. And they’re just devastated. … Your heart just breaks. It’s going to be tough for a lot of people,” she added.

“You don’t realize what kind of stuff you have until you lose it,” Fontaine said.

“We might end up living in an RV for a while. It’s a day at a time right now.”

Brackett said friends had offered a basement to stay in, and his mother had also extended a welcome.

But he said he got out with the only thing that really mattered.

“Stuff is stuff — that can be replaced. My son, my wife can’t. I’m just glad, at the end of the day, we’re safe.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but firefighters believe it started in the attic.

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