Confusion over origin of Edmonton condo fire

Edmonton firefighters declared the Heatheridge Estates fire finally under control at 5:45 am. Friday, 15 hours after the fire call came in Thursday.

Heatheridge tenants say they smelled smoke 3 hours prior to fire call

Firefighters chip out frozen hoses after fighting the massive Heatheridge Estates fire in south Edmonton Friday. (Andrea Huncar/CBC News)

Fire investigators are looking into the claim of some Heatheridge Estates residents that smoke could be smelled near the boiler room three hours before 911 was called.

"We haven't confirmed that," said district fire chief Terry Bucharski. "The investigators are looking into that."

Firefighters declared the south Edmonton condo fire finally under control at 5:45 am. Friday, 15 hours after the fire call came in Thursday.

Firefighters were called to the four-storey Heatheridge complex at 111A Street and 18th Avenue at 2:38 p.m. Thursday.

The fire is believed to have started on the main floor near the boiler room.

Company working on boilers, says tenant

"This thing could have been prevented," said tenant Rick Lewis, who lost everything. "The fire department was here earlier in the day."

Patricia Hunt and her husband examine their destoyed condo where they lived for five years. (Andrea Huncar/CBC News)

"A company was working on the boilers," he said. "It sounded like a fire started in the boiler room and people smelled smoke."

"To know there was a fire earlier in the day and that they didn't secure and make sure it wasn't completely out — that it wasn't in insulation or whatever the case may be," Lewis said. "And then for it to start up again."

The firefighter department said it never attended the building until the fire call came at 2:38 p.m., said spokesperson Tim Wilson.  

The fire grew in intensity over the course of the day, resulting in the loss of the east wing and lobby area of the building.

"It looks like something out of a horror movie," said Patricia Hunt, who lost her home of five years.

She smelled smoke around noon Thursday on her way out of the building, but thought someone had burned their toast, she said Friday.

When she returned, the building was in flames.

While she and her husband had insurance, many did not, she said.

Help availlable for condo residents:

Assessment and short-term counselling support available at 780-496-4777

24-hour access to crisis community program and service information at 211 or www.211edmonton.com

For income support and emergency allowance after hours call Alberta Works at 780-644-5135 or www.employment.alberta.ca/albertaworks

For short-term accommodation needs call Red Cross at 1-888-800-6493

For lost government cheques, licences, birth certificates call MLA Fred Horne's office at 780-414-1311 or 308 Saddleback Road.

Flames breached fire wall

Investigators estimate total damages to the building to be more than $7 million plus $3 million to contents.

The fire breached a fire wall Thursday causing more damage than expected, said Bucharski. 

The full extent of fire, water and smoke damage to the remainder of the building has not yet been determined. 

None of the 92 people living in the building were hurt.

Between 30 and 35 units in the southwest corner of the building remain intact, said Bucharski. Most of the 82 condos in the complex are rented out to tenants.

The City's Disaster Social Services and Canadian Red Cross assisted between 30 and 40 of evacuees during the fire, including one-on-one counselling, temporary accommodation, acquiring necessary medication, and providing meals.