By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press on December 11, 2023.
CALGARY – A patch of black ash covered snow outside a Calgary home improvement store where three people died early Monday in a shed fire.
There was nothing left of the shed, one of about a dozen on display in the parking lot outside a Lowe’s in the city’s northwest.
“When fire crews arrived and extinguished the fire, they tragically found three bodies inside,” said fire department spokeswoman Carol Henke.
“There is some belief that they were using the shed as a shelter.”
The temperature had dipped to about -8 C overnight.
“This is the tragic, deadly consequence of our brutal and exploding homelessness crisis. These poor people were three of at least 260,000 who will experience homelessness in Canada this year,” said Tim Richter, the president and CEO of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.
“How many more deaths like this will it take for us to treat homelessness like the disaster it is?”
Henke said the fire is under investigation.
Police said in a statement that video surveillance footage was reviewed and investigators determined that the fire was not suspicious.
Flames damaged one side of an orange cherry picker, and a neighbouring shed was partially melted. Some garbage, a mattress, blankets and a shopping cart were piled up against some nearby trees.
Yellow police tape was strung around the fire site, but the store remained open.
Lynnda McCaw, 79, was on her way inside to do some shopping when she spotted the scene.
“I find it extremely sad,” McCaw said.
“To have a fire here where people get hurt and die – it’s unbelievable.”
One man said he saw some homeless people in one of the sheds last week, and police were called.
Lowe’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Calgary Homeless Foundation said that during in 2022, as many as 2,782 people experiencing some form of homelessness in the city.
It said data indicated that 71 per cent of those experiencing homelessness were living in shelters and the remaining 29 per cent were sleeping in outdoor areas or vehicles.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2023.