FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — One of the residents forced from their home in the Ridgeview Village Apartment building says several false alarms in recent weeks led to some initial uncertainty about the situation when a massive fire broke out on Saturday night.
Melissa Aalhus, who was living on the building’s second floor, said that the building’s fire alarm went off at around 10:50 p.m. Saturday. She said that she was initially uncertain about whether the alarm was indicative of a real fire, after there had been a number of false alarms in the building in recent weeks.
“I grabbed my phone and my purse, and I was just leaving and a guy said ‘there’s a fire on the third floor, get out now’,” said Aalhus. “By the time I was out, you could already see smoke coming from the back and all those flames coming from the top. It just happened really quick.”
Aalhus said that members of the RCMP had already arrived at the scene when she exited the building. She said that officers then entered the building to knock on doors and ensure that all residents who were home were able to make it out.
City of Fort St. John Communications Coordinator Ryan Harvey said that in total, 47 residents of Rigdeview Village have registered at the emergency support services reception centre, which is currently located at the North Peace Arena. According to Aalhus, all of the building’s residents are required to have rental insurance including content insurance. However, she said that despite this, the situation could be challenging for residents.
“I know there’s some people that live there, they don’t have family here.”
She added that she’s heard that she won’t be permitted back into her suite until a structural assessment of the building is completed by an engineer, which could take up to a week.
Fire Chief Fred Burrows said that fire investigators are continuing to work today to determine what caused the fire, but he said that at this time, the fire has not been deemed suspicious. Burrows was not able to confirm this morning whether there had been false alarms at the building in the recent past, but stressed that residents should treat every alarm as the real thing.
“People sometimes call a false alarm if somebody burns something on their stove, and if they don’t see the firefighters bringing a hose through the front door, they don’t think it’s a fire,” said Burrows. “You shouldn’t see smoke coming down the hallway to evacuate. We teach the kids in school that anytime the alarm goes, always treat it as real.”