SASKATOON — Saskatoon Fire Department Chief Morgan Hackl said the quick thinking and action of residents of the condominium that burned down over the weekend was one of the things that prevented a more serious incident.
The SFD responded to a structure fire in the 300-block 108th Street West just before 11:30 p.m. on Friday, May 27, with fire crews on the scene in less than three minutes from the time dispatch received the call.
Dispatched were six fire engines, two ladder trucks, a rescue unit and the Battalion Chief to the scene of the three-storey building located at 108th Street and Bryans Avenue in the neighbourhood of Sutherland.
“I want to remind the public that while calling 911 is a critical step, it is equally important to pull those internal fire alarms at the first detection of smoke or fire. Without these alarms sounding, there will be people inside the building that still aren’t aware they need to get out immediately,” said Hackl.
He also reiterated the importance of a fire alarm system and smoke detectors, especially in multi-residential units adding that early activation is the key to informing everyone of an emergency.
“A building such as this that had approximately 24 suites in it. So when we have a fire alarm system in a multi-residential unit property, it must be activated early, that a pull station [fire alarm] is pulled and that it alerts everyone on the property. It is crucial that we check our smoke alarms monthly and that we change the batteries once a year.”
Hackl, however, clarified that the entire building complex had a fully operational fire alarm system but it was not activited and it was the residents who informed their neighbours of the fire.
“In terms of the fire alarm system, and when we stated that it was not activated, it was operational. It's very important to signify that it was working. It's just that no one within the property had activated the system and pulled the pull station in the hallways.”
“A lot of the early intervention by the public was people on the exterior of the building, trying to warn people to get out and also someone within the building moving throughout the hallways and alerting people by yelling.”
Hackl said that he does not have the exact number of the people living in the condominium since some had already left or maybe stayed with a relative or friend as soon as they were alerted of the fire. But all residents were housed with the help of other agencies that also provided basic needs and other services.
“It is important to note here when we have to rehouse people, the [SFD] works with agencies like the Salvation Army, Ministry of Social Services and others in the community. So when this occurs, we bring many together to make sure that housing, food and clothing are provided for these people.”
“Currently, to our knowledge. All people have been rehoused, either with family, friends or through the ministry or Salvation Army. The exact number [not sure] because what happened in this incident is as people were alerted early of the incident, some people left the scene and so we lost track of how many were officially rehoused.”
The incident was a major structure fire that had fire crews battle to control the blaze for seven hours and another almost eight hours to fully extinguish the site. The cause of the fire was improper disposal of smoking material with damages estimated at $5 million. Fire crews also rescued several people that have mobility issues.