EDMONTON – A blaze that ripped through part of the Rutherford neighbourhood in south Edmonton Sunday caused an estimated $20 million in damages.
Fire crews were called to a massive fire around 2 a.m. Sunday. The fire began at a condominium construction site near 119 St. and 22 Ave. SW. The four-storey complex was in the framing stage of construction.
Fire Rescue Investigators released the damage estimate on Monday; explaining that the value of the condo complex was upgraded to $18 million. Homes across from the fire also sustained more than $1 million in damage. Investigators are still calculating the damage to the construction equipment, trailers, and vehicles.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire and say it is too early to speculate what may have started it.
Officials say about 85 firefighters were called in to contain the blaze.
Watch: Raw video of the fire burning early Sunday morning:
The heat from the fire damaged the siding of several townhouses across the street from the condo development. Cars on the block also started on fire, but crews extinguished those flames and stopped the fire from spreading.
About 200 residents in the area were forced from their homes and temporarily relocated Sunday morning. Johnny Bright School, located at Rutherford Road and 15 Avenue, was opened to accommodate residents for most of the day Sunday.
“We have evacuated roughly a three-block area around the site to keep the public safe,” Edmonton Fire Chief Ken Block explained.
A big concern for fire crews was the fact that there were several propane tanks on site, one of which exploded around 3:00 a.m.
“We were sound asleep and 3:03, we actually heard the big boom and the bed literally shook,” said Billie, who lives nearby. “Both my husband and I were up and at the windows right away and we could see the flames just above all the roof tops.
“It was scary and, you know, we know how quickly things can spread from one house to another if it was a housing area.”
Philip Pocock lives in a condo building across the street and says he’s never seen anything like this before.
“You can feel the heat,” he said as he watched the building burn early Sunday. “It’s kind of scary. We just moved into this place. It’s the first home we’ve owned, so seeing something happening this close to us is kind of scary… Just glad it isn’t a building where anybody is living right now.”
Officials say the fire was mostly contained by about 4:30 a.m. and it was under control by 9:15 a.m.
Watch: Shannon Greer speaks with Fire Chief Ken Block at 7:00 a.m. Sunday:
The condo development will be a complete loss and many neighbouring homes have suffered extensive damage.
“Whenever you get a fire of this scope and magnitude there’s a lot of heat generated. A lot of the new construction now has vinyl siding and that siding tends to slough off very quickly at low temperature. So most of the damage has been siding that has melted off,” Block said of the nearby homes that have been damaged.
Power was knocked out in parts of the area for most of the day Sunday, after fire damaged some equipment. Around 5:00 p.m. Epcor officials said most power had been restored.
The Canadian Red Cross has been called in to assist and will provide emergency food, clothing and accommodation for the next 72 hours, to those who have been affected. The organization is providing hotels for five families.
Watch: Vinesh Pratap has the story of residents who were forced from their homes early Sunday morning:
All other residents were allowed to return home. However, if anyone returns home and finds they cannot stay, they are asked to contact the Red Cross for help at 1-888-800-6493.
Fire crews are expected to remain on scene well into Sunday night, and perhaps into Monday.
The development, which is a Carlisle Group property, was to house approximately 265 suites. The company posted a statement on its website Sunday, which has been posted below:
“Early Sunday morning, Sept 29th, 2013 there was a fire at our Rutherford Landing project in Edmonton. Three buildings were completely destroyed by the fire. The cause of the fire is not known at this time.
We want to express our appreciation to all First Responders who evacuated the area and attended to the fire. There was also significant damage to nearby properties. Fortunately no one was injured and the loss was limited to property damage.
As soon as the authorities have completed their investigation and return control of the site to us we will immediately begin the reconstruction of Rutherford Landing.
Carlisle will redirect resources to deal with this unfortunate event. In the coming days we will provide updates on our website and by email as additional information becomes available.
The Carlisle Group”
It is still unclear what caused the fire. Fire Chief Ken Block says nobody was injured in the blaze.
Watch: Raw video from the Global 1 news helicopter, as crews work to put out hot spots:
Watch: Tom Vernon is live on the scene Monday morning for the latest updates on the fire.