The long weekend fire that damaged eight households at a Pitt Meadows co-op originated with a pickup parked in a carport.
Fire investigators, with the RCMP, were still examining the truck to try and determine what caused the ignition on Thursday, said Pitt Meadows assistant fire chief Brad Perrie.
Vehicle fires are not uncommon, and can be caused by fuel leaks or electrical system faults, said Perrie. But, he added, the fire will be considered suspicious in origin, possibly deliberately set, until the cause is determined.
The fire Sunday night spread rapidly, and by the time Pitt Meadows firefighters arrived, at least three units were already burning at the Harris Road Housing Co-op, at 119B Avenue.
“We were on the scene very quickly, but there were already three or four units involved,” said Perrie. “It was a fast-moving fire.”
The aggressive fire took almost two hours to bring under control. Five townhouse units were destroyed, and three more damaged. Firefighters were still hosing hot spots on Monday morning.
Seventeen people have been displaced. Everyone got out safely, but one person was taken to hospital with minor injuries.
On Wednesday, Andriy Kudelya was able to get out some of the clothes and other possessions from a damaged unit where he has lived with his wife and two young boys for the past three years.
“We can’t take much, because the room in the hotel is already packed,” he said.
They are staying at the Ramada Inn, while looking for a new place to live. Most of the burned-out residents are staying with family, but Kudelya’s family is in the Ukraine. A neighbour across the street at the co-op allowed them to stay in their home until emergency social services set them up in the hotel. They are one of two families with children who lived at the burned townhouses.
“The biggest concern for me is to find another place,” he said.
Ultimately, he would like to return to Harris Road Housing Co-op.
“It’s a nice place for kids. It’s a pretty good townhouse,” he said.
Dennis and Celina Woycheshen were allowed to bring out some boxes of valuables from their unit, which suffered smoke and water damage.
“Our stuff is salvageable. We’re definitely among the lucky ones,” said Celina, who credited Pitt Meadows firefighters with saving their unit.
They said they love it at the co-op, and hope to return. But they’re not sure whether the entire building, all eight units, will have to be demolished so that the five burned units can be rebuilt.
“There’s really no answers yet,” she said.
Answers will be coming. A structural engineer was going to evaluate the damage on Thursday, and determine the best course of action for reconstruction.
“I presume they will rebuilt it,” said Ellen Gillam, the president of the co-op, which insures all 60 units on the property.
She said the society requires tenants to have contents insurance, but apparently two of the tenants did not, or let their coverage lapse.
Gillam said there is no room for the burned out tenants at present, but there are two units coming available in October – one with two bedrooms and the other three. She said the co-op’s lawyer will be asked to determine which of the burned-out residents should be offered those units.
Ultimately, she said all of the residents would be offered housing in rebuilt units.
A Facebook public group page has been set up called “Pitt Meadows co-op fire 2015,” for members of the public who would like to help.
Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows Community Services will continue to collect financial donations and those of new clothing. They can be reached at http://www.comservice.bc.ca/donations/make-one-time-gift
Other donations go to the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Port Coquitlam (2275 Elgin Ave.) The organizers are looking for volunteers with vehicles large enough to transport furniture, and drivers willing to collect and deliver donations from Maple Ridge to Poco.
The page also has offers of places for rent, and even help with finding three cats who went missing after the fire, and may be in the neighbourhood.