A cigarette butt discarded in a diaper pail caused the $16.3-million fire that destroyed most of a four-storey building at a northeast Edmonton condominium complex.
"This was a devastating fire, we are extremely fortunate that there were no fatalities and no major injuries sustained by citizens or our crews," said fire chief Ken Block.
"This fire was completely preventable," he said. "Edmontonians need to understand their actions can have profound and devastating effects on their neighbours, community and city.
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"If this fire had started at a different time of day, the outcome may have been very different."
The fire broke out on a balcony at the complex at 301 Clareview Station Drive West just before 5 p.m. on Friday. It left up to 200 people homeless.
Two firefighters and one civilian suffered minor injuries.
Block said the fire was the second major fire in Edmonton in less than a year caused by smoking materials.
There have been 55 fires in large residential buildings over the last four or five years caused by careless smoking, Block said.
Residents of 44 of the 106 suites damaged in the fire were allowed to retrieve personal belongings from the site Monday.
"It's a disaster, a big mess," said Basel Mansour. "It stinks inside, soaked with water.
"We thought we'd be getting some belongings from inside, like clothes, but it was all damaged and soaked."
Mansour and his brother Yasar were forced to leave their main floor suite without ID, wallets and car keys.
But beyond some documents kept in a safe, there was little else to salvage, he said.
"We were surprised with the damage we saw. Very sad to see."
The pair had just completed upgrading the suite two weeks ago, Mansour said.
"I was very happy that I finished it. I took some pictures for my friends, 'Look at we've done,'" he said.
The brothers will now be looking for a place to live for about a year and a half.