Condo building without power, air conditioning after fire
Published Friday, July 19, 2013 5:25AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 19, 2013 11:18AM EDT
Residents of a Mississauga condominium that sustained significant electrical damage in an early-morning fire are being allowed to return, even though they may be without power for some time.
That means residents who return home will be without air conditioning on one of the hottest days of the year and possibly longer. The temperature is expected to hit a sweltering 35 C on Friday, but it will feel more like 44 with the humidity.
“It is certainly an unwelcome wrinkle that the air conditioning may be affected for a period of time,” Mississauga deputy fire chief Kevin Duffy told CP24 reporter Katie Simpson.
Hydro employees were hoping to restore electricity to most of the building Friday morning, but it appears the damage was more severe than originally thought, Duffy said.
It is not known when the building will have electricity again.
“That’s an open question at this point and it’s very difficult to say," Duffy told reporters. "We were a little optimistic earlier, maybe not so much now.”
Without electricity, the building's lights, air-conditioning system, elevators and fire alarms are not functioning. Despite this, residents are being allowed to return after spending hours waiting on transit buses, at a community centre or elsewhere. Those who come back will be escorted into the building by emergency personnel.
Because there is no fire alert system, Duffy said building management has been ordered to bring in extra security or staff to patrol the halls as part of a "fire watch" system.
People who have mobility issues or medical conditions may want to put off their return until the power is back on and elevators are functioning again, Duffy said.
After the fire, hydro employees inspected and tested the electrical system, but the power did not come back on as expected, Duffy said.
Crews were checking to see if there was damage to an underground transformer room, a scenario that would be even more problematic.
The fire at 50 Mississauga Valley Blvd. broke out in a third-floor electrical closet at about 12:30 a.m., sending six people to hospital, said Peel Regional Police spokesman Const. Thomas Ruttan.
Some fire victims suffered smoke inhalation when heavy smoke wafted through the building, and others suffered heat exertion or stress as they walked down several flights of stairs during the evacuation, police and EMS said.
Duffy said the fire burned up to the fourth floor and destroyed the power distribution system.
Some residents fled the building immediately, while others left their suites later when the power supply was cut off. They were forced to wait nearly 12 hours before they could return. During that time, those who didn't leave were allowed to stay in their suites as long as they sheltered-in-place and put wet towels under their doors to keep the smoke out, Duffy said.
Sam Holkar and his family were asleep in their condo when the fire alarm sounded and roused them from their beds.
Holkar, his wife, their two young children and his visiting in-laws then walked down six flights of stairs.
The evacuation posed a challenge for his mother-in-law, who recently had knee replacement surgery and was in pain as she walked down the stairs, Holkar said.
“It’s been a little rough,” Holkar said of the experience as his sleep-deprived family huddled outside the building in 26 C heat at 6 a.m.
His daughter, nearly two years old, lay asleep in the grass as he spoke to CP24.
Residents said there was heavy smoke and they heard an explosion when the fire broke out.
Patricia Faria, who is five months pregnant, said some people were running out in a panic.
“I wasn’t panicking but watching other people panic was making me kind of nervous,” Faria said.
Steven Pearson fled the smoke-filled building in his underwear and bare feet.
Outside, the partially-clad man said residents were frustrated as they waited to find out when they could go home.
“It’s been crazy, just wondering what’s going on, what happened,” Pearson said. “We’re not getting any answers.”
Pearson, an insulin-dependent diabetic, was told he could eventually return briefly, at least, to retrieve his medication and clothes.
After the fire, people gathered outside the building to wait for updates from firefighters. Later, those who didn't go elsewhere were taken to a community centre.
Air-conditioned transit buses were brought in to help people to stay cool, and members of the Canadian Red Cross and Salvation Army were on hand to provide water, children's diapers and other assistance to the displaced residents.
With files from CP24 reporter Katie Simpson.
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