Authorities are investigating a fire that devoured major portions of a four-storey condo complex in downtown Langley and forced dozens of families out of their homes, built only seven years ago.
Residents are shocked by the extensive damage from what began as a small fire on Sunday morning. RCMP officials say they arrived on the scene shortly after 10 a.m. to help with road closings as crews from the fire department tried to contain the flames.
By 11 a.m., passersby watched large flames shooting out of the roof and thick smoke blanketing the sky. "It looked like the whole top floor of the building was involved in fire. There were people panicking and traffic was backed up," said Langley real estate agent Michelle Carlsen. "You could hear one person saying, 'Look for mom,' and I did see an ambulance there."
RCMP said there weren't any reports of people being injured at the scene, near 56th Avenue and 201A Street in Langley.
"In the course of my work as a realtor, I have shown different buyers to the building. The units are a big part of the revitalization of Langley," said Ms. Carlsen, whose husband also saw the top floor of the complex being consumed by fire. "We were just really amazed that it was up in flames. It was pretty incredible. The smoke was really black."
The cause of the blaze is unknown, RCMP said in a statement. The investigation will include looking into how a fire believed to have started on the top floor somehow spread so quickly through the attic of the complex – part of the Paddington Station real estate development of condos and townhouses.
Some of the gables on the fourth floor collapsed and fell to the ground.
Quadra Homes developed the Paddington Station project. One feature sheet from 2009 touted 86 units for sale, with many having "luxury features including electric fireplace" and also providing residents with "underground parking with extra spaces." The condos and townhouses "with bold brick elements as well as beautifully landscaped courtyards" are in a location that has big-box retailers nearby.
Most of the residents own their units, while some places have been rentals.
While fire devastated the top two floors, residents are also worried about water damage to the lower floors and cars in underground parking.
"Langley City Fire Department has requested their emergency social services attend and Langley RCMP client support and victim services has also been called in to assist," RCMP said.
One observer on social media posted photos that showed a couple of firefighters carrying pets to safety. Others commented on the difficult transition period ahead for residents left homeless just days before the holiday season kicks in.
RCMP added that they helped evacuate a neighbouring residential complex because of the smoke.
The massive fire came on a day in which temperatures hovered just above freezing in Langley.