March 1st, 2024

B.C. inquest sees videos from inside burning Winters Hotel on day of fatal fire

By The Canadian Press on January 26, 2024.

A coroner's inquest into the deadly Winters Hotel fire in Vancouver has seen video footage of the blaze from inside the rooming facility, showing heavy smoke billowing from a unit, then flames a few minutes later. A firefighter sprays water on debris during demolition of the Winters Hotel in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, April 22, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

BURNABY – A coroner’s inquest into the deadly Winters Hotel fire in Vancouver has seen video footage of the blaze from inside the rooming facility, showing heavy smoke billowing from a unit, then flames a few minutes later.

Jesse Smith shot the two videos on the day the fire reduced the structure to a shell on April 11, 2022, killing tenants Mary Ann Garlow and Dennis Guay.

Smith, who worked for a program caring for pets in the building, has told the inquest into the deaths that she initially heard smoke detectors going off, but neither the sprinklers nor fire alarm were activated.

She says she was in the atrium when she videoed heavy smoke pouring out of an upper-floor room at 10:57 a.m.

She says she left the building but when she came back to see if she could help tenants, she shot a few more seconds of video at 11:01 a.m., showing flames shooting out of the room, while a fire alarm sounds.

The inquest, which heard this week that the Gastown hotel’s sprinkler system was due to be reset just hours after the deadly fire erupted, is expected to continue for another two weeks.

Garlow and Guay’s remains were found in the rubble of the building during demolition work more than a week after the fire.

Inquests are not intended to find fault but can lead to recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2024.

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