On Tuesday, investigators were looking into the cause of the fire that destroyed a low-income housing complex on Little Gaetz Avenue on Monday. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)

Downtown apartment fire quickly spread to the roof

Cause of fire still under investigation

A fire at a downtown apartment building spread too quickly on Monday to save the structure, says Red Deer’s deputy fire chief.

Tyler Pelke said crews were called to the 22-suite apartment at 5129 50th Ave. at about 3 p.m. for a fire in a second-floor suite.

Firefighters put that fire out, but it had already spread into the attic, which contained several concealed spaces.

“The fire got up into the attic, then it was very hard to chase. That was what pushed our crews out quite early. It was too dangerous to put people up on the roof,” Pelke said Tuesday.

He said fighting the fire required two aerial ladders. One of Red Deer’s ladders was being repaired, so Sylvan Lake Fire Department was called to assist with its equipment. It wasn’t until about 7 p.m. that the fire was knocked down to smoldering spots.

On Tuesday morning, investigators examined the building’s remains. Parts of the second floor were destroyed. The main floor was heavily damaged, but still standing. Demolition was expected to be completed later in the day.

Pelke said residents were asking to get inside to claim their belongings, but the structural integrity of the building was compromised.

Twenty of the suites were rented, and everyone inside at the time of the fire got out safely.

“That’s the most important news we could have got. We’re very, very thankful for that,” said Seth Schalk, property manager with Potters Hands Developments, which owns the building that provided long-term housing for low-income residents.

He said it’s too early to think about whether it will be rebuilt.

“We’re focusing on the tenants, the things that really matter at the moment. People’s belongings are gone, their home is gone, so we’re trying to work with tenants and try to figure out what the solution for each tenant will be.

“We’re going to do our best to house as many of them as we can. We also talked to other individuals who have offered to house some of them.”

Related:

Updated: Fire destroys low-income housing complex in downtown Red Deer

Red Deer needs more affordable housing options for the chronically homeless to the jobless

Displaced residents were shuttled to a temporary reception facility at G.H. Dawe Community Centre and put up at a hotel Monday night.

Schalk said people in the community have already stepped forward to help, such as Mom’s Diner, which has offered tenants free food.

The Mustard Seed is accepting monetary donations, hygiene items and clothing for the tenants as part of a fundraising campaign in partnership with the City of Red Deer.

“It’s overwhelming just to see how people have come together to help out,” Schalk said.

Potters Hands Developments purchased the building 21 years ago. Previously, it was the location of Eskimo Billiards.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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