Native centre has home; fire cause unknown

Destruction from the fire at the building that housed Red Deer Native Friendship Society has made it difficult to determine whether it was caused by cigarette disposal in a planter, a barbecue or electrical wiring.

Destruction from the fire at the building that housed Red Deer Native Friendship Society has made it difficult to determine whether it was caused by cigarette disposal in a planter, a barbecue or electrical wiring.

“We know where it started. It’s just that there are a couple of possibilities that make it hard to make an absolute ruling,” fire prevention officer Tim Kivell said on Friday.

“It may not ever be determined.”

He said the barbecue was used prior to the fire. The gas tank was open, but the valve burners were turned off. Electrical upgrades were done in the building within the past year. Butting out cigarettes in potting material, which is combustible, is also a common cause of fire.

The fire at 4712 51st Ave. broke out early in the morning on May 28. It started on the second floor exterior patio beside apartments on the west end of the building. The friendship centre and Street Ties Youth Outreach were located on the first floor.

“It’s accidental in nature. There’s no reason for us to believe it was intentionally set,” Kivell said.

The fire caused an estimated $350,000 in damage due to extensive smoke, water and fire.

On Tuesday, Red Deer Native Friendship Society will be moving into its new location at 5405 50th Ave., above Cash Canada, where they expect to be for the next year.

Outreach worker Mel Sawyerr said the response from the community has been awesome.

“We weren’t aware we were as well known as we seem to be, and in a good way,” Sawyerr said.

About $5,000 in donations have come in, along with office furniture and supplies.

“We’d just like to send a big thank you out to the community for helping us in our time of need. We’ll continue to give back to the community.”

Aboriginal Employment and the friendship society will hold a summer kickoff fundraiser on Tuesday, from 7 to 11 p.m. at Festival Hall. Entertainers include traditional dancer Dallas Arcand and Metis hypnotist Scott Ward. Tickets will be sold at a stand at Parkland Mall today from 1 to 4 p.m. Tickets will also be available at the door.

Tickets are $15 each for society members, $15 each for non-members, $10 for children six to 12. Children under six get in free.

For more information, call Aboriginal Employment at 403-358-7734 or the friendship society at 403-340-0020.

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