Three people were taken to hospital as firefighters battled a blaze that left a multi-storey seniors residence in St. Albert with extensive fire, smoke and water damage.
Two people suffered smoke inhalation and were in serious but stable conditions while the other person taken to hospital sustained “minor lacerations,” Alberta Health Services tweeted.
The fire broke out around just before 8 p.m. Thursday at the Citadel Mews West Continuing Care Facility, located at 15 Erin Ridge Road next to the Sturgeon Community Hospital.
A city spokesperson said crews were first dispatched to the scene at 7:52 p.m. and firefighters from all three stations in St. Albert responded.
Scott Wilde, the acting chief for the St. Albert fire department, said the building’s owner told him everyone inside had been accounted for but fire crews would still sweep the building once they were able to, to ensure nobody was still inside.
He said there are about 100 suites in the building and most people got out on their own while some needed help leaving.
According to owner Christenson Communities, Citadel Mews West has 95 independent living units. The building is part of the overall Citadel Village complex, which also includes the 81-unit Citadel Mews East independent care facility, and a 125-bed long term care centre.
AHS said about 129 long-term care residents and 38 designated supportive living residents were forced out of the complex, in addition to residents of the independent living area.
Wilde said his understanding is most of the displaced residents were moved to the St. Albert Inn until they can figure out what to do next.
“We don’t know how the fire started for sure, but it started on the lower floor in one of the suites, came outside the building, went up the walls and… to the roof,” he said.
As a precaution, residents and staff from the adjoining building, Citadel Mews East, were also evacuated via St. Albert Transit to a local hotel.
In an update at 1:45 a.m. Friday, the city said regular care residents were being accommodated in hotel rooms, while long-term care residents were being hosted in a large banquet room until more suitable accommodation was found for them.
Shepherd’s Care Foundation, a not-for-profit senior’s care and housing provider, is offering immediate help to displaced residents.
All residents of Citadel Mews are eligible for a free one-month stay at Shepherd’s Care Kensington Village in north Edmonton until they can find a new home, the company said in a news release Friday.
“My heart goes out to all the residents, our beloved seniors, and the Qualicare organization affected by this terrible fire” said Shawn Terlson, president & CEO of Shepherd’s Care Foundation.
“Shepherd’s Care is here to help.”
AHS added it has made arrangements with several long-term care providers in the Edmonton area to accept all residents.
According to St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron, the wing the fire started in has been completely destroyed, but the firewalls stopped the flames from moving into other wings.
Other wings have smoke and water damage, Heron said. She wasn’t aware of any timeline for residents to be able to get back into their
Heron said St. Albert residents were helping those displaced within minutes of the ask going out on social media Thursday night.
“My boyfriend and I were at the Staples, which is about two blocks away,” she said. “We loaded up truckload after truckload. People responded in minutes with water, and that’s what was needed at the time.”
Heron said she’s also seen a few GoFundMe pages pop up, but said collections are actually not needed at this time.
She said every resident is being cared for and their needs are being met.
“At this time, no donations of money or clothing or anything is required. (It) just actually complicates the situation.”
A spokesperson for Edmonton Fire Rescue Services told Global News six of its crews were dispatched to help the neighbouring municipality at 8:16 p.m.
Wilde said fire crews from Morinville and Spruce Grove also came to help, while a spokesperson for the City of St. Albert said firefighters from Strathcona County helped as well.
RCMP said officers were also called to the scene by St. Albert Fire Services to help with the evacuation of the complex and to block off roads.
Police said buses were brought in to bring residents to a Costco parking lot and added the St. Albert Alliance Church was another place that opened its doors to the displaced residents until they figure out where to go next.
“The high wind is challenging for firefighters but has so far not affected nearby buildings,” the city said in a news release.
Early Friday morning, the city said Citadel Mews West suffered extensive fire, smoke and water damage to the west building, adding the fire wall held and saved the east building, which experienced only minor smoke damage.
Some businesses on the main level of the building were impacted by the fire, the city said.
According to the city, firefighting efforts were continuing into Friday to ensure hot spots were put out.
Cathy Heron, the mayor of St. Albert, arrived at the scene and said she was feeling “heartbroken.”
“It’s a sad day but it’s a good day because the response was so well co-ordinated,” she said.
Dale Nally, the MLA for Morinville-St. Albert, issued a statement about the fire late Thursday night.
“The province stands ready to assist and support those impacted by this awful incident,” the associate minister of natural gas and electricity said.
“Our thoughts are with all the residents, staff and first responders.”
Marie Renaud, the MLA for St. Albert, posted on social media how grateful she is to first responders who arrived at the scene.
“Be sure to keep all those who’ve been displaced and those in harm’s way in your thoughts and prayers tonight,” she wrote.
A damage estimate has not yet been done and the cause of the fire remains unknown. The city said an investigation will be conducted when it is safe to do so.
— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News