Heatheridge condo fire burned for nearly 4 hours before 911 called

The Heatheridge Estates condo fire burned for nearly four hours on Jan. 19 before 911 was called, say fire investigators.

$13 million fire caused by plumbers torch

The Heatheridge Estates condo fire burned for nearly four hours on Jan. 19 before 911 was called, say fire investigators.

"There are never guaranteed outcomes with any fire, but I am confident an earlier 911 call would have helped mitigate the situation," said fire chief Ken Block.

It took 70 firefighters 15 hours to control the Heatheridge Estates fire. (Scott Lilwall/CBC News)

"Fires double in size every minute, and this fire burned for more than 180 minutes before fire rescue received the 911 call."

A 10-day investigation concluded the fire started at 11 a.m. as a plumber and some building employees were using a torch to repair a five-centimetre copper line in the condo’s boiler room.

The workers repeatedly attempted to extinguish the fire as it spread into the main-floor ceiling, entering the building's walls where it smouldered and continued spreading for 3½ hours.

Around 2:30 p.m. the fire had generated enough heat to burst into flames, said investigators.  

Fire rescue received the 911 call at approximately 2:40 p.m.

About 70 fire fighters fought the three-alarm fire for 15 hours to prevent flames from spreading to adjacent properties and the south wing of the building, said Block.

"Our firefighters contended with some very difficult cold-weather conditions during this fire," he said.

"We had no civilian or firefighter injuries, and crews not only managed to contain it to the one property, but also saved a third of the suites in the building."

"This is no easy feat with a fire of this size."

The fire caused $13 million in damages.

On Jan. 31, Fire Rescue completed their onsite investigation and turned the building over to the property manager.

On Feb. 1, residents of the south wing were able to begin accessing their suites.

Investigators said two days after the Heatheridge fire, firefighters responded to 911 call for another fire at Greenwood Condominiums at 116th Street and 112th Avenue.

The fire, also started by a plumber’s torch igniting insulation, was contained to two suites, causing only $200,000 in damages.

"We had two fires in the same week that started the same way," said Block.

"One caused millions of dollars in estimated damages and resulted in the total loss of the building," he said.

"The difference shows the importance of dialing 911 the second you believe an emergency has happened," said Block.