Suspicious fire displaces 21 people in Maple Ridge

Blaze started in the parkade of Sunrise Apartments on 122nd Avenue, a building plagued by problems

Maple Ridge firefighters remove burnt items from a storage area in the parking garage of the Sunrise building along 122nd Avenue Saturday morning.

An apartment complex in Maple Ridge already plagued by bedbug problems was damaged in a suspicious fire Friday afternoon.

The fire started just before 7 p.m. in the parkade storage area of Sunrise Apartments, forcing 21 people from their apartments over the weekend.

The fire burned through plastic drainage piping, leaving the north side of the building on 122nd Avenue uninhabitable.

The Ridge Meadows RCMP are in the early stages of their investigation and have no suspects as of yet.

Donna Blaszak of Vancouver was in the area when she noticed smoke billowing out of the parkade. She immediately called 911 while her friends ran to the building trying to alert tenants.

“My friend’s father just ran up to the building shouting and banging on windows,” said Blaszak.

“The fire department were on scene incredibly fast.”

She said a large crowd gather outside the building watching as the flames in the parkade were quickly extinguished.

James McIlmoyle just moved into the apartments recently. Living on the third floor, he heard the fire alarm ringing and noticed a crowd gathering outside.

“I didn’t grab a lot, just my keys and my wallet,” he said.

McIlmoyle said it was his first ever experience with a fire and hopes it’s his last.

“I’ve heard about other fires in the area and it’s a scary thought if someone’s lighting these,” he said. “It was definitely a crazy situation, that’s for sure.”

The latest incident compounds to a long list of trouble for Sunrise Apartments and the adjacent Sorrento Apartments. Both were in the news last year due to a bed bug infestation that has plagued the buildings since April 2012.

Maple Ridge’s fire chief Dane Spence said most of the cast iron piping in the parkade has been replaced with PVC pipes in the last few years . The fire also quickly engulfed items in the storage area, as well as a car parked nearby.

Ceri Marlow, the emergency operations manager for Maple Ridge, said the district provided food and shelter for 21 people affected by Friday’s fire.  The emergency services program provides relief for 72 hours after an event like Friday’s fire. Marlow said all 21 were allowed to go back home Sunday.

• Anyone with any information on the fire can call the RCMP at 604-463-6251 or call CrimeStoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

-with files from Monisha Martins

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