An apartment building on Hazel Street was destroyed by fire in the early hours of Thursday (July 29) with reports of a least one fatality.
Firefighting crews from several halls fought to get the fire under control overnight at Hazelwood Manor at 9282 Hazel Street.
Initially flames were shooting into the air from a top floor unit and fire could be seen on the roof.
Shari Hamilton, who lives behind the building, said she was woken up just after 1 a.m. by the sound of people yelling.
“I thought it was just people arguing, but then I could make out ‘Fire! Fire!’ and the guy sounded absolutely terrified,” she said. “When I went outside, I could see the flames.”
Hamilton said a fire alarm had gone off in the building, but because it is pulled so often by pranksters, residents were slow to respond.
“They were all ignoring it because there are false fire alarms all the time,” she said. “So two guys ran into the burning building and started knocking on doors yelling ‘Fire! Fire.’ Even then they said some people weren’t coming out because they thought it was a prank.”
One person who did come out, accompanied by his mom, was a five-year-0ld boy who lives on the first floor.
“He was watching his home burn down and all he was saying was ‘Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus’ every time the flames would shoot up,” Hamilton said. “He was crying and he kept asking his mom, ‘Am I going to lose all my toys?’ It was terrible. So terrible.”
There were witness reports that one person died after jumping from a balcony to escape the fire, and Hamilton said other people were jumping off their balconies to escape the blaze.
By the time she retreated to bed at 4 a.m. the fire was still raging.
It was brought under control but reignited several times, including a flare-up the next morning that had fire crews returning to douse it.
Hazel Street was closed to traffic Thursday morning from Yale Road to First Avenue as crews conduct the overhaul.
The cordon was later narrowed to a 100 metre section of Hazel starting at Margaret Avenue, heading towards First Avenue.
Residents fleeing the blaze were evacuated overnight to the Chilliwack Coliseum to receive emergency social services, while some were treated in hospital.
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