A couple from Ottawa are among the residents at Eva Lake Village seeking housing after an electrical fire damaged the apartment complex on Oct. 7.
Arial Cundell and her boyfriend Alex Crouch had been staying at a hotel with financial assistance from the Whistler Emergency Services Society, but that funding ran out on Saturday (Oct. 12).
Complicating matters, the strata management company has warned residents — landlords and tenants renting units — that the repairs could take at least eight weeks to complete, and it could take even longer than that to get the building permitted and approved for occupation.
“We are attempting to make other arrangements, but now is unfortunately the hardest time of year to find a place to stay,” said Cundell on Friday. “We could end up renting a place with other people, which isn’t ideal.”
Cundell said they’d like to return to their place if given a choice, and not knowing exactly how long they’ll need to make arrangements for is complicating matters. They are currently staying at a friends’ place while they’re on a two-week vacation — something that buys them some time — but Cundell said the goal is to find something quickly.
A few of their possessions were damaged beyond repair, including their couch, but most of their clothes and other possessions survived the water. They lived below the top-floor unit that was most affected by the fire.
“It’s quite a shock — one second you have a nice and cozy place to stay and the next you’re looking for a new place to live,” she said.
They were able to retrieve most of their possessions, and clothes but they were eating out for all of their meals for several days, something Cundell said is a drain on their savings.
They did not have tenant’s insurance for the unit. “We just moved here in July from Ottawa, and were in the process of looking to switch insurance providers because our Ontario insurance was not carrying over,” she explained. “We were a bit lazy about it, and of course something happens....”
If you have a place available, Cundell would like to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden thanked the Whistler Emergency Services Society volunteers for their work providing temporary housing and other assistance, and said the incident should be taken as a wake-up call to residents to purchase tenant insurance.
“So many newcomers who come for the season who live in staff accommodation or a private residence, or share with other people in a residence, they need to get tenants insurance,” she said. “It’s not expensive… a lot of travellers think they don’t have much stuff with them and they won’t waste money on tenant insurance, but just think — some of these kids lost everything: clothing, computers, their skiing equipment and everything they brought with them, and when you add it up it’s in the thousands of dollars.”
Tenant insurance can also cover the cost of being relocated in an emergency.
Claire Mozes, interim executive director of Whistler Community Services Society, said case workers have been in touch with some of the people displaced by fire and are providing whatever assistance they can.
“I don’t know if every single (victim of the fire) has contacted us, but I know that some of them have,” she said. Some of the victims were looking for emergency food bank services to get through the next few weeks, while others have been given gift certificates to the Re-Use-It Centre to get clothes and other items.
“Others need a little counselling or emotional support, which isn’t unusual when you go through an unexpected life stress like a fire,” she added.
The Crystal Lodge & Suites is housing a few of its employees that were impacted by the fire, and collecting donations from staff. Victims and friends of the victims are also taking to social media to find places to stay.