More than 100 people have lost their homes after an intense fire engulfed an apartment building in Metro Vancouver over the weekend.

The blaze flared up at a construction site in White Rock, about 45 kilometres southeast of Vancouver, around 5 a.m. on Sunday. It spread to a nearby apartment complex, destroying the building's nearly 70 units, as well as the ground-floor, commercial spaces. Crews from neighbouring Surrey were called in to help.

The cause of the fire is still to be determined.

Fleeing the flames

Clayton Cosco was among the dozens who had to flee. He and his wife woke up to a crackling sound and escaped with only their phones and wallets, along with their dog. 

"At this point, we're homeless," he said. "It hasn't all sunk in yet."

Clayton Cosco

Clayton Cosco says he's grateful for the community support after a fire damaged his White Rock home. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

Cosco said their home was insured but he fears it will have to be torn down. He and his wife plan to stay with their daughter tonight but aren't sure where they'll live after that.

"Now we're on that journey of finding out how, [and] where we're going to live," he said. "We're still a little stunned, but we're emotionally touched and suffering right now."

Community donations

White Rock's Centennial Arena has become both a gathering spot for evacuees and a drop-off point for donations.

"What we're seeing is the community really kicking in support and, in fact, we're probably going to have too many donations," said White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin.

Baldwin said most evacuees are in surprisingly good spirits and are gathering information about their home and insurance.

"It's going to be a couple of days of turmoil, I'm sure, for them, but they're doing very, very well, all things considered."

Boil-water advisory

The extensive efforts to put out the flames has taxed the water supply of the city of 20,000, leading to a boil-water advisory the city said will stay in effect for the next 24 to 48 hours. 

White Rock Fire 6

Fighting Sunday's fire drained the city of White Rock's water supply. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

"Water supply has been drawn down to low levels in our reservoirs. This can create negative pressure in the water lines and result in contamination entering our water system," Bob Ambardar, the city's manager of engineering, said. 

Residents are asked to boil water and use as little as possible until the advisory is lifted.

Unlike other municipalities in the region, White Rock draws its drinking water from seven wells, rather than Metro Vancouver's water supply.


  • The population of White Rock is approximately 20,000, not 45,000 as indicated in an earlier version.
    May 15, 2016 9:49 PM PT
With files from Canadian Press