Massive blaze leaves hundreds of people homeless

CALGARY — Hundreds of people are homeless after a massive fire destroyed much of a four-story condominium complex in southwest Calgary.

CALGARY — Hundreds of people are homeless after a massive fire destroyed much of a four-story condominium complex in southwest Calgary.

The blaze at the 159-unit building on Millrise Drive, sent massive, dark grey clouds of smoke into the sky Thursday.

There were no reports of injuries.

Deputy Fire Chief Len McCharles said the fire appears to have started on a balcony and when crews arrived about 12:15 p.m., it had spread into two suites, crawling its way up into the attic space where it quickly spread.

McCharles said it’s too early to tell the extent of the damage, which appeared to be mainly confined to the top floor, noting water damage to some suites untouched by fire may be extensive.

Some 170 residents had checked in Thursday night at a city-operated emergency rescue centre at nearby Southview Alliance Church where Disaster Services personnel were assessing their needs.

The city estimates some 300 people live in the complex.

Ken Hoffer of Disaster Services said those with friends and family were being contacted, while the city was making arrangements for others who lost food, clothing, medicine and shelter.

As the fire roared and crackled, a large portion of the roof crashed down to the ground, plummeting past lawn chairs placed tidily on an upper floor balcony.

Fire crews could only fight the blaze from the exterior — some climbing high up along aerial ladders pummelling the stubborn blaze with a relentless torrent of water — while police blocked traffic for several surrounding blocks.

Kelsey Snodgrass and friend Sierra Crippen watched in horror while trying to track down a friend by cell phone who they believed might be in the building.

They later learned she was sleeping in a suite and was woken up by fire crews and among dozens who fled to safety

Insp. Darren Cave said police had covered the building’s perimeter to make sure no one trespasses while residents are away.