The SFD said it started advising residents on Thursday morning of the imminent closure of the building at 1460 20th St. W.
The closure comes following months of action to improve living conditions, said assistant fire chief Yvonne Raymer.
“Despite our efforts to ensure the building was safe, clean and not a fire hazard, we cannot get ahead of the constant vandalism, squatting, drug trade, risky and unhealthy behaviours,” Raymer said in a statement.
“We cannot allow people to live in this building until significant changes are made.”
Earlier this year, repairs were made to the building’s fire alarm and fire sprinkler system and a $58,000 invoice was sent to the condo board.
Raymer said the most recent inspection of the building revealed a water leak somewhere in the building that is starting to seep through the drywall. Water is also leaking into the elevator and collecting in the elevator shaft.
“We don’t know where the leaks are, so to protect further damage to the building we’re closing it,” Raymer said.
“It’s not feasible to continue hiring companies to fix these issues. We are going to shut off the water. We will help rehouse people in safer places.”
She said residents have to vacate the building by 2 p.m. Thursday.
The SFD said they are working with several agencies, including the Saskatoon Tribal Council, to help those displaced find new living arrangements.
Raymer did not say how many people are affected by the closure, but noted it involves 14 units, three that are owner-occupied. She said the other 30 units in the 44-unit building are vacant and boarded.
Saskatoon’s Emergency Measures Organization is on hand to ensure “all involved are aware of the planning and processes for the day,” said a SFD statement.
The Ministry of Social Services is working with community partners to help impacted residents who need housing or income support assistance.
Issues with the building date back to at least August 2020, when the fire department issued an order to remedy. Last month, Raymer said many of the infractions listed in the order have not been remedied.
As recently as the end of April, the fire department said it closed 16 units and secured another 13 due to unauthorized access.
Compounding the situation is the ownership of the units, Raymer said.
One person controls 15 suites, and the estate of another individual owns 11 suites — and no organization is actively working on their behalf, she said.
Raymer said condo owners will be given an opportunity to secure the site satisfactorily as per the SFD’s requirements of the National Fire Code and the Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services bylaw 7990.
The SFD said it will secure properties if required.
Raymer said the Prairie Heights condo building is disproportionately demanding on the resources of both the Saskatoon Fire Department and Saskatoon Police Services.
In 2020, the fire department responded to the high-rise 109 times and police 403 times.
So far this year, the fire department has responded to the building 45 times and police 131 times.