The fire at the Village St. John apartments is a tragic reminder of the why it is vital to for tenants to get contents insurance.
Melissa Cooper and her roommate Andy Johnston were fast asleep on the morning of Nov. 30 as a fire took hold in the suite the suite next door.
A firewall, which was rated about 20 minutes of fire exposure, is all that separated the two adjoining suites. The fire department believe the fire began just before 6 a.m. Within minutes, firefighters were on the scene to put out the blaze.
“We had a little bit of [fire] extension in the roof system. The extent of damage was minimal in that 8819 suite. From our point of view there was no direct fire in the unit other than in the roof space.” said Curtis Redpath, deputy fire chief. “For the size of fire we had the extension was minimal.”
Unfortunately, the minimal damage badly affected Cooper and her roommate’s belongings.
“This is my room. You can see that that was my night stand,” said Cooper, pointing to a burnt plastic mass in the corner. “You can see that the cords actually were melted into parts of the wall.”
Many personal belongings, from clothes to bed, mattresses and Cooper’s sofa fairly reeked of smoke.
“Anything that’s material like that. If smoke gets into it its really hard to get that smoke out,” said Redpath.
“There were a couple spots [on the fire wall] that burned through,” Redpath said.
The firefighters evacuated the tenants of 8819 then used positive pressure fans to keep the smoke and other products out of those units.
The basement of the suite also suffered water damage. The cause of the water damage is still under investigation, according to Redpath.
“We did have to pull down the ceiling in that unit to ensure that we could extinguish any extension,” Redpath said.
Jim Jarvis, a consultant engineer who was on site inspecting the units for an insurance adjuster, said that the structure was intact and that the unit is salvageable.
“That place is dangerous and is going to need to come down to at least the ground floor,” Jarvis said of the adjoining suite where the fire was mostly contained.
“I’m glad no one died. It kind of sucked that there hasn’t been water for a few days but that’s nothing big,” said Dane Murren, a resident of an adjoining unit that has been without water since the fire.
Sterling Management told Murren that the water should start again on Thursday.
“Everybody’s doing what they can. I was really impressed with how fast the firefighting team got here,” said Murren.
Many of the tenants affected by the fire did not have contents insurance.
The property owner says that time and time again he has seen cases in Fort St. John were tenants have lost all of their belongings because they didn’t have insurance.
“You have to make sure you cover yourself. The contents are their responsibility totally,” said Robert Herman, owner of Sterling Management.
Sterling Management found Cooper and her roommates an unfurnished apartment on a separate property, which they moved into on Monday.
“If there is something that happens in your building and you don’t have tenant’s insurance you’re not covered unless you try to get something out of the building owner,” Redpath said.
Herman said that tenants without content insurance are lucky to live in a community that is supportive but the good will of others should not be relied upon.
Herman added, “This community’s really good at giving people stuff but you can’t always count on that.”