British Columbia

Woman in her 60s dies in overnight Abbotsford apartment fire

A woman was discovered by a firefighter during a secondary search of the building on Countess Street. Officials said she did not survive her injuries.

Victim was found after the building had been evacuated

Dozens of residents spent the night in the cold after escaping the large fire in their apartment complex on Countess Street. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

One woman is dead and dozens of people are displaced after a large apartment fire in Abbotsford on Wednesday night.

The fire broke out at a complex in the 2400-block of Countess Street around 10:30 p.m.

Several residents were already making their way out of the building as the fire made its way into the roof. 

A firefighter found one woman, who was in her 60s, during a secondary search of the building after the fire was under control. 

Officials later said she died of her injuries.

Layers in the ceiling and roof of the building made firefighting difficult, Abbotsford Fire said. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

"Due to the extensive damage ... there was ceiling collapse and one of our firefighters on secondary search discovered the individual," said Assistant Chief Jeff Snider.

"They were removed immediately and brought to BCAS [British Columbia Ambulance Service] ... and BCAS did the very best with what they had."

Snider said three other people were taken to hospital for minor smoke inhalation.

Assistant Chief Jeff Snider said his crews had to deal with ice and snow as they helped residents escape from their balconies on ladders. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

Dozens displaced for the night

Snider also added his crews had to perform dangerous ladder rescues for other residents living in suites with balconies

"They did an outstanding job pulling people off the balconies," said Snider.

"There was a high level of risk there for sure with the snow and the ice."

Aaron McKay, who has lived in the building for the past two and a half years,  heard the commotion and escaped with his dog Pikachu and his cat Pookie.

Resident Aaron Mckay said the first two things he grabbed were his dog Pikachu and his cat Pookie. He left behind most of his personal belongings and his collection of hats. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

"The alarms went off and I was trying to sleep ... I heard the alarms and booked it outside with my pets and whatnot," said Mckay.

McKay said he was able to join his neighbours in one of several transit buses that were provided to keep residents warm in the freezing temperatures.

Officials said the damage to the building is extensive and around 30 residents are displaced.

A fire investigator will be looking into the cause Thursday morning. The B.C. Coroners Service is also investigating.

A police officer tapes off the fire scene after fire crews found a victim inside a suite long after the building was evacuated. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)