British Columbia

Accidental laundry fire forces families out of East Vancouver building

Firefighters rescued a cat from a balcony as flames spread from a third-floor apartment in a building on Frances Street.

Mom says 13-year-old mistakenly dropped a lit match onto a pile of clothes in Frances Street apartment

Candace and Margaret Boudreau are thankful all three of their cats escaped alive. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

A fire has forced dozens of people out of their apartment building in East Vancouver just days before Christmas.

Resident Cheryl Allan said her 13-year-old son accidentally started the fire in their third-floor apartment when he dropped a lit match onto a big pile of laundry.

"I was downstairs in the lobby with my parents when my boyfriend called me and said there was a fire in my living room," said Allan. "He tried to put it out, but he couldn't put it out."

Assistant Vancouver Fire Chief Ray Bryant said all residents of the building, located on Frances Street near Commercial Drive, got out safely.

A firefighter checks out the damage to the roof of 1766 Frances Street after a fire broke out in a third floor suite. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

He said by the time crews arrived at around 11 a.m. PT, the fire had spread into the walls and ceilings of the wood-framed building, which is operated by the Vancouver Native Housing Society.

"It was only a matter of minutes before it was starting to come out the front and back of the unit," he said, noting that it will be a while before the building is habitable again. 

"One half of the building will be severely damaged through fire or water or smoke, and the other half will be affected by the checks that have to be done to the electrical and plumbing and some rebuilding of some units."

Firefighters rescued Jackpaws the cat from the balcony of the burning unit. (Martin Diotte/CBC)

Firefighters used a ladder to reach Allan's balcony, where her cat Jackpaws was trapped by flames and smoke.

"I want to thank them very much because I though I was going to lose him," she said. "He's OK but he did singe his back a little."

Bryant said although the building didn't have sprinklers, it did have a functioning alarm system.

The fire totally gutted a unit on the third floor of 1766 Frances Street. All residents from the 20-plus unit building are unable to return to their apartments. (Martin Diotte/CBC)