More than 30 occupants of the Upper Deck shelter in Sechelt have been displaced after a fire ignited in the early hours of Feb. 7.
While no one was injured, damage to the building has closed both the shelter, the overdose prevention site and restaurant below.
At approx. 2 a.m. on Feb. 7, the Sechelt Volunteer Fire Department received a call about a fire at 5653 Wharf Ave. Upon arrival, the 14 firefighters witnessed smoke from the second storey. A fire was contained in its room of origin, fire chief Trevor Pike told Coast Reporter. The fire had been extinguished by the indoor sprinkler system and a resident used a fire extinguisher.
As far as Pike knows, there were no reported injuries, but extensive smoke and water damage throughout the building. The cause of the fire is under investigation. As of Feb. 8, the investigation has been handed over to the RCMP.
Once the fire was out, the attending firefighters began damage mitigation and to help relocate the building’s occupants, Pike said. BC Housing told Coast Reporter that 34 individuals were staying in the shelter at the time of the fire. Some of the residents were taken to RainCity’s Hightide location, while others were transported to the emergency shelter in Gibsons via a bus, Pike said.
“It was a pretty hectic scene, as you can imagine when you’ve got that many people displaced. Things were rushed as far as trying to get locations for these folks to go to,” Pike said. “That was our main priority once we knew the fire was out, was trying to get the people warm back into a comfortable atmosphere because it was a cold, rainy night.”
The bus used came from Sunshine Coast Limousine, Shuttle & Taxi, the only service that was available at that time of day. “That was outstanding that they came to the scene in the middle of night like that,” Pike said of the bus service.
Pike anticipates the shelter and business on the first floor, Angelo’s Pizza, will be closed for some time for necessary repairs. “I don’t know the actual timeframe before occupation will be able to occur for both the occupants of the shelter and also the business down below,” he said, adding it could be a “significant amount of time.”
Angelo’s Pizza is located on the first floor of the building, and rents from BC Housing. Co-owner Micky Argiropoulos said there is water damage throughout their business. They’ve had to cancel orders and have to throw away any food that was not in the freezer.
“Some parts of the ceiling have fallen down. There's water underneath the freezers, the fridge. The floor was like a puddle,” she said.
Argiropoulos is concerned about the management and supervision of the shelter services. She does not want to lay off her four employees, and hopes to carry on the business once repairs are done.
As for services, a statement provided by BC Housing said the people who were staying at the shelter who have accepted relocation offers “will continue to have access to support services they were receiving prior to the fire.”
BC Housing and Rain City are waiting on a summary report from a contracted restoration company to confirm the extent of damages, BC Housing said via a Feb. 8 email. A timeline for reopening has yet to be confirmed.
BC Housing thanked frontline staff of the site, the guests and first responders for their swift response. “The safety of individuals and staff at the shelter is a top priority and we know fires are traumatizing and extremely disruptive for guests, staff and the surrounding community,” the organization’s statement said.
Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information. In the initial report, the Sechelt Fire Department told Coast Reporter there were 15 occupants in the building at the time of the fire. BC Housing has since confirmed there were 34 occupants.