Careless smoker blamed in Edmonton apartment fire

An southside Edmonton apartment fire that forced 220 people from their homes Saturday afternoon was caused by somebody smoking on a balcony, say firefighters.

Fire strands 220 residents

Edmonton deputy fire chief John Lamb outlines the damage to residents of Strathmore Manor forced out of their homes by fire Saturday. (CBC)

An southside Edmonton apartment fire that forced 220 people from their homes Saturday afternoon was caused by "smoking materials" on a balcony, fire officials said.

Firefighters cut through the roof. The fire was started by a cigarette on a balcony. (CBC)

The fire at Strathmore Manor at 29th Avenue and 109th Street, which took 2½ hours to get under control, caused $5 million in damage.

"I personally am angry," resident Lynn Flanagan-Burrell said. Even though her suite wasn't damaged in the fire, Flanagan-Burrell won't be able to return until at Friday.

She was astounded to hear the blaze was caused by a smoker throwing a cigarette into a planter.

"If they can't take the time to stamp it out, put it in an ashtray, flush it down the toilet, they need to be responsible," she said.

The fire jumped quickly from balcony to balcony before spreading into apartment suites, investigators said.

Eight suites were damaged by fire while others were damaged significantly by water and smoke.

In 2011, Edmonton fire officials say improperly extinguished and disposed cigarettes, matches and pipes have caused $7.5 million in property damage in 66 separate incidents.

That figure was $5.1 million for all of 2010, and $2.3 million in 2009.

"People aren't just getting it," fire investigator Wayne Pawlowski said. "They're just not getting that message. If you want to smoke, be responsible."

A spokeswoman for Edmonton Police said the fire has been deemed accidental so no criminal charges will be laid.

Residents of Strathmore Manor are being asked to contact Capital Management at 780-428-6511 for information regarding when they can return to their suites.