A pre-dawn fire at The Harold, an apartment complex on Harley Street in Charlottetown, has displaced more than 50 residents Wednesday.
Dan Sampson, director of property management for Killam Apartment REIT, said as of late Wednesday afternoon fire officials hadn’t finished their investigation, but there was extensive damage to the building.
Flames engulfed the entire top floor and water used to put out the fire caused extensive damage to the remaining floors, Sampson said.
He also said it’s too early to say if the building will need repairs or a full rebuild.
“It will be months, that’s safe to assume.”
Sampson, who drove to P.E.I. from Halifax after Killam got a call about the fire at around 5:30 a.m., said it was devastating for the tenants.
“It’s so disruptive for them to have to leave their home so obviously it’s not a great day for them,” he said.
All of the eight firefighting apparatuses from both Charlottetown fire stations, along with one truck from the North River Department, responded to fight the fire at around 4:30 a.m.
"We had a working structure fire when we arrived. It was fully involved at the far end all the way up into the roofline when we got here to fight the fire. Obviously, the first priority was to make sure all the occupants were out of the building. So, with the assistance of police, that was completed early," said Deputy Fire Chief Tim Mamye.
No neighbouring buildings had to be evacuated.
"We were controlling it as we were trying to fight the fire from spreading," said Mamye.
Firefighters from the North River and Crossroads Fire Department staffed the Charlottetown fire halls while the fire was underway.
Mamye said 39 people were evacuated from the premises, the remainder of the 52 occupants were tracked down and all are safe.
“The initial crews made entry when they first arrived on scene. They were fighting the fire from the interior, up on the third floor. We soon pulled them out of there as the fire was spreading across the roofline,” said Mamye. “We’ve been back in and out many times to check for hot spots. There’s a lot of destruction up there - sometimes from the fire, sometimes from our guys getting at the hot spots that are behind drywall.”
The three-storey complex containing 29 apartments was extensively damaged.
Disaster volunteers with the Canadian Red Cross arranged emergency lodging at Charlottetown-area hotels for 16 tenants. They, along with eight others, were also helped with emergency purchases ranging from clothing to replacement medications and other essentials. All other tenants made their own arrangements, such as staying with relatives or friends.
Some residents had their own vehicles, while others were transported to the Red Cross office by taxi or with assistance from the Salvation Army.
With Charlottetown facing a severe housing shortage, finding a place to live long term may be difficult for some of the displaced tenants.
Sampson said that, like many landlords in P.E.I., Killam’s properties are basically full.
“That is a challenge and will be a challenge going forward if the tenants have to find more permanent accommodation until we can either rebuild or repair the apartment,” he said.
The fire alarms inside the apartment complex were still sounding at 11 a.m. as fire crews continued to douse hot spots. Water streamed out of the ground-level doors. Two firefighters sprayed from the top of the ladder.
Crews will remain on the scene until it is safe for the fire marshal's office to enter and assess the potential cause of the fire.