Devastating overnight fire damages Native Friendship Centre

Emergency Services fire investigators were on scene in downtown Red Deer Thursday morning trying to determine the cause of a devastating blaze overnight.

Extensive fire and water damage inside the back portion of the Red Deer Native Friendship Society’s centre Thursday morning.

Emergency Services fire investigators were on scene in downtown Red Deer Thursday morning trying to determine the cause of a devastating blaze overnight.

No one was injured when the fire started somewhere in a series of apartments attached to the west end of the Red Deer Native Friendship Society building at 4712-51 Ave. The three-storey building suffered extensive damage with the top floor’s apartments completely gutted.

The Street Ties Youth Outreach, a Parkland Youth Homes program, on the main floor of the building, accessible through the back alley, was also seriously damaged.

Fire crews arrived shortly after midnight and worked until about 7 a.m. to put the fire out and clean up the area.

All residents of the apartments were safely evacuated, said Dave Harvey, an Emergency Services public information officer.

Sheralle Graystone, director of the Native Friendship Society, found out about the fire when one of her staff member’s phoned her early Thursday morning.

“It’s devastating. We have no home base operations,” Graystone. “All of our staff, all of our clients, all of our youth are just going to be devastated.”

The society just celebrated 25 years in operation and has around 400 people drop-in a month, with others taking part in their many programs.

Graystone said they will be looking for a new location so they can open up again.

“Red Deer is great. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of support. We’ve seen a lot of support here this morning,” she said.

Street Ties Program Manager Sandy Proseilo said they offer outreach service to high-risk and homeless youth in Red Deer between the ages of 12 to 21. She said they have showers, lockers and computers that between 15 to 30 youth access each day.

“It’s quite a blow for us to not have a building,” she said. “We have a very dedicated staff who work really hard to help these kids, so hopefully we’ll be able to recoup. The good news is that nobody has been hurt.”

The cause of the fire hasn’t yet been determined, but two fire investigators from Red Deer Emergency Services were on the scene.

Do you have photos, video, or information related to this story? Contact the Advocate newsroom at 403-314-4333

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