A second body has been found in the wreckage of the Gastown heritage building gutted by fire last week, Vancouver firefighters confirmed Friday evening.
The tragic discoveries came as city crews were conducting a scheduled demolition of the four-storey building at Abbott and Water streets.
“Through the process, investigators and the demolition crew have been mindful individuals may be in the building, and have been proceeding with appropriate precaution and care,” the City of Vancouver said in a news release.
The city paused demolition of the building until Monday and said a coroner was en route back to the scene.
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According to the city’s statement, firefighters performed a primary search for occupants of the Winters Hotel went it went up in flames on April 11. Normally, a second search is performed, the city noted, but in this “defensive attack,” firefighters exited the building to fight the flames from outside.
“The fire was too extensive and situation deemed too dangerous to allow firefighters into areas on floor two (where the fire originated) and above, which means an ‘all clear’ was not determined,” the statement read.
The identity of the victims has not been released. Investigation of the death has been referred to the Vancouver Police Department.
Five people were hospitalized and more than 140 were displaced in the fire last week. The building, more than 100 years old, contained a women’s shelter and single-room occupancy hotel, along with seven businesses.
On Wednesday, the city confirmed unattended candles were to blame for the “accidental” blaze, which originated on a second-floor unit where they were left burning.
According to the fire department, the April 11 fire was the second in four days at 203 Abbott St. There was another fire on April 8 in a different unit, but it was extinguished by the building’s sprinkler systems.
At the time, fire crews issued a notice of violation to have the fire safety systems serviced, and put the building under a fire watch until that work was complete.