Residents of a Murrayville condominium complex will be out of their homes for some time after a massive fire destroyed an apartment building under construction next door early Sunday.
Just before 4 a.m. the wood-frame structure, which was being built at the corner of 221 Street and 49 Avenue, caught fire and was quickly engulfed in flames.
Township fire crews used two ladder trucks to pour water on the blaze, using the force of the hoses to knock burning walls inward and contain the fire.
At the back of the site, several loud explosions sent bursts of orange flame and clouds of black smoke curling into the air.
The east side of Murray Green, a condominium complex that is separated from the site of the fire by a fence, suffered both heat and water damage, rendering a number of units uninhabitable, said Langley Township district fire chief Bryant Ross.
“Everything on the east side has some level of damage,” he said.
Firefighters pulled out ceilings in some fourth-floor units to ensure there was no fire inside the condo’s roof line.
All of the building’s residents got out safely, however the evacuation didn’t go as smoothly as police would have liked.
The fire was first noticed by a Langley RCMP member who was returning to the main detachment, located one block east of the burning building.
“Regardless of the fact that a fire alarm was sounding in these buildings, nobody was evacuating their residence,” police said in a written release.
About 40 officers, including a number from Surrey RCMP, Abbotsford police department, the Integrated Road Safety Unit and Police Dog Services pounded on doors in an effort to get residents out of both Murray Green and nearby Autumn Ridge.
Autumn Ridge residents were allowed to return home about two hours later.
Victim Services was called in to attend to the approximately 150 people evacuated from Murray Green, who were bused to a temporary shelter at the nearby Blair Recreation Centre.
Still wearing pyjamas and robes, with small dogs on leashes, many sat watching the fire as they waited for information. Several people expressed concern about the fate of cats that had to be left behind when they fled.
Ross told them during a short briefing session at around 7:30 a.m. that the atmosphere inside the building, as far as smoke and heat levels were concerned, was “quite survivable” for any animals left inside.
However, he said, RCMP had to break in a number of doors to ensure that nobody was inside, meaning some pets may have escaped from their units into the main part of the building.
Police cordoned off 221 Street between 48 Avenue and Fraser Highway to traffic, but dozens of people gathered in a large vacant lot across the road to watch as the structure burned to the ground.
Because the wind was calm, the smoke and flames rose straight into the air, sparing nearby trees, however a crane on the site appeared to have suffered serious damage
One firefighter was taken to hospital with exhaustion, said Ross.
According to Langley RCMP, one Langley police officer also suffered from heat exhaustion and smoke inhalation.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but firefighters are calling it suspicious because the building was in the frame-up stage, with no electricity running into the site.
There was no security on site, but there are surveillance cameras.