No one was seriously injured after a trailer caught fire at a problem property in Port Alberni, but Port Alberni’s fire chief says the outcome could have been much worse.
The Port Alberni Fire Department responded to a report of a trailer on fire at the Wintergreen Apartments in the 3600-block of Fourth Avenue just before 5 a.m. on Monday, April 12.
“Our duty crew responded, and when they arrived they found heavy smoke issuing from one of the trailers,” said Fire Chief Mike Owens.
The crew was able to knock the fire down, confining it to one trailer. A search of the trailer found nobody inside, although one person who is believed to have been a tenant of the trailer had to be treated by BC Ambulance Service.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, said Owens.
The Wintergreen Apartments have been a cause for concern for the City of Port Alberni for months. The property, which is located across from the bottle depot on Fourth Avenue, is home to a number of trailers. Property owner Randy Brown began moving trailers behind the apartment complex back in November 2020, offering shelter for the city’s homeless population.
However, the city is concerned about numerous zoning, building code and fire code infractions surrounding the trailers. The trailers are tied into the apartment’s sewer system and extension cords run from each trailer into the building.
Back in February, a report from the fire department to city council noted that the property has a number of “electrical hazards” and the trailers affect access and egress for emergency personnel.
Owens said the trailer that caught fire has “immediate access” to the alleyway behind Fourth Avenue, so the department was able to access it quickly.
“The fire could have very rapidly spread to the other trailers,” said Owens. “We were very fortunate that our crew was able to get there quickly and knock it down quickly.”
Owens emphasized on Monday that the present condition of the property and trailers is not safe for either the residents or for first responders.
“It’s clear to me that the trailers are not a permanent solution [for homelessness],” he said. “The concern about a fire is not a hypothetical one anymore. It certainly could have been a lot worse.”