British Columbia

No red flags about motel's safety prior to fatal fire, says Prince George, B.C., mayor

Reports that fire alarms didn’t go off when a Prince George, B.C., motel went up in flames earlier this week have raised concerns about whether the appropriate safety measures were in place.

Three bodies were found after a suspicious fire at the downtown Econo Lodge on Wednesday

Investigators are still on scene days after a motel fire in Prince George where three bodies were found on July 8. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

The mayor of Prince George in northern B.C. is concerned about reports that fire alarms didn't go off when a downtown motel went up in flames earlier this week, but says he wasn't aware of any previous safety issues around the building.

Three bodies were found after a suspicious fire at the downtown Econo Lodge started Wednesday morning.

Motel guests who narrowly escaped told CBC News on Wednesday they didn't hear any fire alarms or smoke detectors.

"Obviously it concerns me," said Mayor Lyn Hall in a Friday interview on CBC's Daybreak South. "You would think that the fire alarms would be operational and that's part of the investigation that the RCMP and fire [department] are doing so we'll find out of all that I'm sure in the weeks to come."

Guests at the downtown Prince George Econo Lodge who managed to escape say it was screams, rather than alarms, that alerted them to Wednesday's fire. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Since then, more reports have followed from guests who say alarms didn't go off.

"They all said there were no alarms going off, there was no warning," said Kitty Mueller who works at Positive Living North, a downtown agency which has been accommodating some of the motel guests. "One member said it was right beside their room by the time they realized it."

The Serious Crimes Unit and the BC Coroners Office were still on the scene investigating as of Friday. Authorities have not confirmed the identities or the cause of death of the victims. Police say concerns about fire alarms will be part of their probe.

"We're looking for any video whether it be somebody driving by that has dashcam video, whether it be surveillance video that maybe we haven't obtained yet or whether it be just a cellphone selfie from the neighborhood here that might lead us to to furthering this investigation," said Corp. Craig Douglas of the Prince George RCMP. 

The mayor says there were no previous concerns about Econo Lodge and that it recently had some upgrades.

And he added there are a number of agencies that are responsible for safety in motels.

"You have everything from companies doing inspections on elevators, companies doing inspections on automatic doors, and all those kinds of things, sprinkler systems," said Hall. "I'm sure that's what's going to be looked at during this investigation by both of the departments."

He says the city will wait for the results of both investigations, but that tragedies like this one often lead to inspections being stepped up.

With files from Betsy Trumpener and Andrew Kurjata

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