Engaged couple lost everything in Penhold apartment fire

Two people are in hospital in serious condition after flames engulfed an apartment building in Penhold, Alta.

18-unit complex engulfed by flames Thursday night in town 130 km north of Calgary

The Penhold Fire Department responded to a structure fire at a three-storey apartment building on Thursday around 5:40 p.m. MT. (Penhold Volunteer Fire Department/Facebook)

Two people are in hospital in serious condition after flames engulfed an apartment building in Penhold, Alta., on Thursday night.

Earlier Friday, three residents were unaccounted for, but everyone has since been found safe. 

The 18-unit complex burned to the ground, said Fire Chief Jim Pendergast.

About 50 firefighters from nearby Red Deer and Innisfail helped the town’s volunteer department fight the flames, which destroyed the three-storey building.

Fire crews are still pouring water onto the smouldering rubble from several angles to extinguish hot spots.

Fire grew quickly

Nearby resident Cheryl Eastman said she watched as the fire grew quickly.

Donations for fire victims are being accepted at the Memorial Hall in Penhold, which is also serving as an evacuation centre. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

"We heard a little bit of, I guess, an explosion and went outside. From the bottom southeast balcony, a barbecue, I believe it was a propane tank had exploded,” she said.

“Started with a bunch of black smoke and within maybe 10 minutes, three floors of the building were gone and within an hour the whole building was gone."

Highway 2A was closed while crews battled the fire and the town was asking residents to conserve water.

The Memorial Hall on Flemming Avenue has been opened for residents forced out by the flames and the Red Cross is offering its support. 

Fund being set up for fire victims

“I'm so proud of our town. People came with everything from pillows and mattresses to blankets — the hall is full of stuff,” said Mayor Dennis Cooper.

“I'm just so happy and proud of our community for how they responded for people in need."

Donations are also being accepted for residents who lost their homes.

"We will be setting up a fund for the Penhold apartment fire through the Red Cross," said Cooper.

"They are here helping us out." 

Couple loses everything, including wedding suit

Dean Junck and his fiancée met with volunteers at the community hall to plan where they will be sleeping tonight. 

Fire crews are still working to put out hot spots after a huge blaze levelled a three-storey apartment building in Penhold, a small town north of Calgary, on Thursday night. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

The two are set to exchange vows in two weeks.

"One of my groomsmen had passed away not too long back and I had been in contact with his mother and she had given me some of his suits and things and I had actually lost some weight to fit into them because he was in good shape," said Junck.

The suits, along with all of his other possessions, were destroyed in the fire.

"I could rent a tux now, but it's not going to be the same at all."

'Everything I had was in that apartment'

The couple moved into the apartment just last November. They picked up the forms last week to apply for tenants' insurance, but had yet to fill them out.

"Everything I had was in that apartment," said Junck.

The couple are still looking forward to the wedding, but say it just won't be the special ceremony they had wanted.

It’s not known what caused the fire.

Penhold is about 130 kilometres north of Calgary.

Local resident Justin Bolack sent CBC Calgary a video of fire crews battling the flames. Watch it below.

A listener of Red Deer radion station Big 105 sent in this photo of the fire near Penhold, Alta. (Big 105)
Volunteer firefighters in Penhold, Alta., were called out to an apartment fire Thursday afternoon. (Big 105)