Fire crews from Red Deer and Sylvan Lake were working to extinguish a fire that destroyed a low-income housing complex in downtown Red Deer in August this year. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Fire crews from Red Deer and Sylvan Lake were working to extinguish a fire that destroyed a low-income housing complex in downtown Red Deer in August this year. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Red Deer apartment burns down in 2020

An apartment in downtown Red Deer was completely destroyed this past summer.

The Red Deer Fire Department was called to a 22-suite apartment at 5129 50 Ave. at about 3 p.m. on Aug. 24.

“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,” deputy fire chief Tyler Pelke said during an interview the day after the fire.

Fighting the fire required two aerial ladder – one of Red Deer’s ladder was being repaired, so the Sylvan Lake Fire Department was called in to assist with its equipment.

Twenty of the suites were rented and everyone inside at the time of the fire was able to get out safely.

Rene Bourassa, one of the individuals renting a suit, lost almost everything in the fire. But all things considered, he still considers himself lucky, he told the Advocate in mid-September.

“You don’t go hungry in Red Deer. There are always some nice people to help you. A lot of people have helped me and I appreciate it very much,” said Bourassa.

Bourassa had initially assumed the fire bell that went off while he was watching TV in his apartment on Little Gaetz last month was a false alarm.

Homeless people had been entering the building “and were always pulling the tab down,” he said.

“But this time, it didn’t shut off,” so Bourassa climbed the stairs from his basement apartment to investigate.

When he spotted dark smoke pouring from under the door of a second-floor apartment, Bourassa began running down the hall, pounding on doors to alert others.

He estimates the structure was fully engulfed in less than half an hour.

Potters Hands Developments owns the building, which provided long-term housing for low-income residents.

“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,” Seth Schalk, property manager with Potters Hands Developments, told the Advocate this summer.

“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.”