October 22nd, 2017

‘Nothing short of a miracle no one got hurt’ in seniors’ home blaze: fire chief


By J.W. Schnarr on July 13, 2017.

jwschnarr@lethbridgeherald.com

LETHBRIDGE HERALD

The Gardens complex fire is every firefighter’s worst nightmare, Lethbridge Fire Chief Richard Hildebrand said on Wednesday.

Hildebrand spoke with media prior to an information meeting planned with residents of The Gardens, all of whom were displaced by the fire.

“This sort of fire is a fire chief’s and a firefighter’s worst nightmare,” he said. “There are just so many things that can go horribly wrong.

“It’s nothing short of a miracle that there wasn’t a single person hurt.”

About 35 Lethbridge firefighters responded to a fire at The Gardens complex on Garry Drive W. just past 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. Crews remained on scene for several hours.

“We knew immediately it was a large-scale event,” Hildebrand said. “There were a large number of people who were evacuated and displaced.”

He commended the efforts of staff and the community at large who stepped up to help when needed.

In all, nearly 140 residents and their pets were evacuated from the building without a single injury.

“In this sort of event, (it is) an absolute blessing,” Hildebrand said.

Mike Lavallee, CEO for Seasons Retirement Communities, the company which owns both The Gardens and Sunrise Village, said emergency responders and everyone who helped needed to be thanked for their efforts.

That help was extremely important in getting the seniors settled, as many left the building with nothing.

“Let’s face it,” Lavallee said. “Some people walked out of the building without even a bank card, and no money in their pockets.”

Seasons staff is involved with residents on how they can work through this process going forward, and regain some control over their lives.

“For some people, it’s going to take some time,” he said. “But we’re all working in great partnership with the services available.”

There will be a staged approach to residents being allowed back into their homes in order to collect any personal items needed. Over the next few days, some residents may be permitted to enter their suites to collect what is needed.

“From there, we’ll continue to work with everyone in terms of occupancy, and when that might take place,” said Lavallee. “That will all come down to restoration, remediation, and environmental safety.

Lavallee said he was unable to give a timeline as to when the building might be repaired and residents allowed to return home.

No cause for the fire has yet been determined, and the investigation continues. However, fire investigators pinpointed a third-floor balcony as the place where the it likely started.


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