Vulnerable adults evacuated after mattress catches fire in Victoria

Some residents suffered minor smoke inhalation, damage to premises minimal

  • Feb. 2, 2012 12:00 p.m.

A mattress fire was no match for the sprinkler system at a supported housing unit in Victoria, home to adults with with mental illness and addiction issues.

Eighteen Victoria smoke eaters in six trucks raced to the Pacifica Housing-owned Medewiwin apartment complex at 360 Gorge Rd. E around 9:14 p.m. Thursday night.

By the time firefighters from all three Victoria stations arrived, the sprinkler system in the suite had extinguished the flames, which were caused by smoking in bed, said Victoria fire Platoon Capt. Dave Bicknell.

The fire gutted the bed, scorched one wall and filled the ground-floor of the building with smoke. Fire officials estimate the smoke and fire caused $10,000 in damages.

“It wasn’t a severe fire, but I think one of the messages that’s important to get out, other than don’t smoke in bed, is that sprinkler systems are a very effective means of fire suppression,” Bicknell said.

Residents were evacuated from the 26-unit complex and sheltered in a B.C. Transit bus for about two hours. Some were treated for smoke inhalation at the scene by B.C. Ambulance Service paramedics. No other injuries were reported.

“For all of the tenants, when you’ve experienced something like that, it’s traumatic,” said Karyn French, executive director of Pacifica Housing.

Staff were relieved that tenants were safe from harm.

“It was very fortunate that no one was injured, and we had minimal water damage,” French said.

Since about 2000, the non-profit has owned and operated the building. Medewiwin Apartments house men and women 19 and older, who have been homeless in the past or have been at-risk of becoming homeless.