Investigation underway after fire at St. Albert seniors' home displaces more than 100 residents

Crews from Edmonton, Morinville, Spruce Grove and Strathcona County also helped battle the blaze through the night

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A massive blaze at a St. Albert long-term care home that displaced more than 100 seniors overnight was extinguished Friday morning.

An investigation into the cause of the fire at Citadel Mews West Continuing Care Facility will now begin as there is no active fire activity other than the occasional hotspot, the City of St. Albert said in a 9 a.m. news release. Crews from Edmonton, Morinville, Spruce Grove and Strathcona County also helped battle the blaze through the night.

St. Albert RCMP received a call to assist the local fire service with a large structure fire at the facility located at 15 Erin Ridge Rd around 8 p.m. on Thursday. All residents were safely evacuated and most were transported to the St. Albert Inn overnight. Regular care residents were accommodated in hotel rooms while long-term care residents were hosted overnight in a large banquet room.

Three people were taken to hospital, Alberta Health Services said via Twitter Thursday night. Two patients suffered smoke inhalation and were transported in serious but stable condition while a third person had minor lacerations.

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The City of St. Albert is continuing to work with AHS in accommodating the residents displaced by the fire. To connect with loved ones, family members are asked to contact Eleanor Risling, executive director of continuing care for the Edmonton Zone, at 780-809-1296.

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The Citadel Village consists of 95 independent and supportive living units in Citadel Mews West, 81 independent living units in Citadel Mews East, and 125 long-term care beds in the Citadel Care Centre, according to the company’s website. Residents and staff from the adjoining Citadel Mews East building were also evacuated as a precaution.

‘The staff were fantastic’

Betty Smith’s 95-year-old mother moved into the east building four months ago. She received a call from a friend about the blaze and rushed over to assist. Smith said her mother and the other residents were evacuated after smoke starting to waft inside the building.

“She was on the second floor and of course, the elevators were down so everyone was evacuated by wheelchair,” she said. “The staff were fantastic. Everyone who was off duty showed up to come and help evacuate. Everyone was more than willing to help and they carried every wheelchair down the stairs.”

Smith along with her husband and mother were able to find shelter in their vehicle while other residents were forced to wait outside in wheelchairs while transportation was being arranged. Staff continuously went up and down to offer blankets and water.

Shaw Buckley was also on scene Thursday night waiting beside his 87-year-old mother and said he arrived as soon as he could to help.

“When we (arrived), the first building was totally in flames,” he said. “We just helped evacuate people out of the second building and we’re all just now out on the lawn waiting to see what happens.”

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The shooting flames and large clouds of smoke garnered a lot of interest from neighbours and onlookers.

Fawad Qadiri, who lives near the seniors complex, was one of the many who came to watch firefighters battle the blaze. He said he was watching television when his brother told him about the fire.

“I opened up the window and there were literally flames,” he said. “As long as no one was hurt that’s the main thing.”

There is extensive fire, smoke and water damage to the west building while the fire wall held and saved the east building, the city said in a news release. The cause and cost estimate are still being determined.

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Community pulls together

On Friday morning, the St. Albert Firefighters Union said the fire was “the worst nightmare we hoped would never happen.”

“A fire in a facility like this can easily have catastrophic consequences. It is because of the quick action of firefighters, care staff and RCMP that we were able to evacuate all residents of this facility in a timely fashion. With many having limited mobility, this is not an easy task,” the union said in a social media post.

“Our thoughts are will all the residents who suffered injuries and who are now without a home. It is so amazing to see in time of crisis the community pull together and all chip in to help out.”

jlabine@postmedia.com

duscook@postmedia.com

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