Most apartment residents back home after Duncan fire

Most residents of Parkland Place were returning to their apartments this week after a fire forced the evacuation of the building last Sunday, but some will be waiting longer to get back home.

As of Thursday, about 22 individuals still hadn’t been able to return, according to Cowichan Valley Regional District Manager of Public Safety Sybille Sanderson.

"We are providing some hotels and meals," she said. "And some folks are still staying with friends and family."

A meeting is planned for Friday morning where those residents will learn more about the situation. She hopes a few more will be able to go home over the weekend. BC Housing and the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation are being consulted for long-term solutions.

"We’ll work through what options might be available," Sanderson said.

The fire broke out in a third-floor apartment in the south end of the Dobson Road building. Residents were let back into the north end of the building on Tuesday, and some were allowed back into their firstand second-floor apartments in the south end on Wednesday and Thursday. Others whose units sustained water and smoke damage were still waiting.

The apartment where the fire started is boarded up so insurance investigators and firefighters can work together to determine the cause, something Duncan Fire

Chief Mike McKinley expects to happen next week.

There are some empty units in the building that could be used by residents who can’t return to their own apartments, McKinley noted.

"Hopefully it’s getting back to normal," he added. "It will take a while, but everything is up and running."

The Emergency Response Centre set up at the Island Savings Centre and operated by staff from the ISC, CVRD and City of Duncan ran smoothly. Residents from Parkland Place were registered and fed there, and some were able to sleep there.

"For the most part, people were very appreciative," Sanderson said. "Most people in the community A) don’t expect to have a fire, and B) aren’t aware of the services available through the province."

Gerry Masuda’s apartment didn’t sustain any damage, but he still spent two nights on an air mattress at the ISC. He noted in a letter to the Citizen how pleased he was with the emergency team headed up by ISC manager John Elzinga, and by the rest of the community’s response.

"All acted with calm professional competence with reassuring smiles," he said. "I was impressed by the positive attitude of those whose apartments suffered damage from the fire. I was impressed by the relatives and friends who provided shelter but I was especially impressed by the Duncanites who came to the ERC and invited complete strangers into their homes."

Community members have contacted Sanderson about donating items to the fire victims. While the thought is appreciated, the CVRD doesn’t have enough storage, so they will take down information from organizations or individuals and accept donations after they can assess what is needed.

"We are compiling a list of potential donors, and we will connect clients with donations," she said.