Residents from 20 suites at the Beaufort Hotel building on Angus Street have been displaced after a small mid-morning fire, Jan. 14.
Fire crews were called to the building in Port Alberni’s Uptown just before 9:30 a.m. and encountered heavy smoke in part of the building.
“It appears there was one suite where the fire originated,” Port Alberni Fire Dept. Chief Mike Owens said. The building is sprinkler protected and the sprinkler contained the fire to the suite of origin.
“There is extensive water damage, as the sprinkler had suppressed the fire. At this point there is water that has inundated the second floor and has started to migrate down into lower floors,” he said.
Firefighters had to wait until BC Hydro turned off power to the building before they could enter the building. “It is our understanding is that (the suite) was not occupied at the time of the fire.”
Angus Street was blocked between Third and Fourth Avenues for several hours while crews dealt with the fire and water issues.
Several Emergency Social Services representatives were on site helping residents of the 20 suites find alternate accommodation for the next 72 hours, and arrange to have essential items such as medication, wallets, cellphones and chargers removed from rooms and returned to residents. Owens said a restoration company was already on its way to secure the building.
The Bread of Life opened its doors to residents, spokesperson Colin Minions said. Normally the soup kitchen is closed between 4–9 p.m. and open overnight for people to use emergency shelter beds.
“We’ll be open for these people and the public,” he said.
The building is privately owned by Paul Saroya, a developer from Nanaimo. The Beaufort property is the second half of what used to be the Beaufort Hotel and Convention Center: Saroya tore down the hotel portion in 2009, leaving the old convention centre part with a number of suites above that have been used as low-income housing. It is still referred to as the Beaufort Hotel.
One man standing on the sidewalk outside the building said he had been living there, but had been grocery shopping when the fire occurred. He said he was living there because he had fallen on hard times and it’s difficult to find an inexpensive place to rent in Port Alberni.
“I call it the Heartbreak Hotel.”