Whistler Fire Rescue Services are still investigating a fire in the Treeline townhouse complex in the Blackcomb Benchlands that left nine people homeless on Oct. 24.
According to Assistant Fire Chief Sheila Kirkwood, the initial fire report came in at roughly 4 a.m. When crews arrived they saw that the fire had already moved to the roof, and appeared to be coming from an upstairs balcony. After ensuring that the residents of the townhouse were out safely, firefighters moved in and quickly got the fire under control.
As for the residents, they reported hearing a loud bang before noticing flames coming from the rear of the structure.
"We concluded the fire investigation on Friday, and it appears that a lot of recycling material was stored on the outside balcony with the barbecue and a 20-pound propane tank beside it," said Kirkwood. "There were also smokers using that balcony, and with no other ignition sources around we concluded that the smoking materials ignited some cardboard in the recycling."
Kirkwood said the "bang" was the propane tank's release valve exploding, feeding the flames.
All five units in the complex were affected. The centre unit was destroyed and other units suffered fire damage to the common roof area as well as some smoke and water damage.
Some 36 firefighters and paid-on-call firefighters attended, and were on scene until approximately 10 a.m.
Security was called in to do a fire watch, and the fire flared up later that day in the attic space and soffits (roof edge), resulting in crews returning to the building to battle the blaze once again.
"It's not uncommon to have hot spots with a fire like this, when you're dealing with common roof space," she said. "It's unclear at what point the fire was noticed, or how quickly the hot spot developed."
Emergency Social Services initially provided temporary accommodation for eight displaced occupants of the building on the first night, who lost everything to fire, water and smoke damage except for the clothes they were wearing. None of the affected individuals had purchased tenants insurance, and two have returned home to family in Kelowna. Another resident of another unit accessed emergency services the following day.
This was the third major fire in the community in a period of six weeks, including a fire that claimed four administrative and support buildings owned by Whistler Blackcomb at Base II, and a fire at Eva Lake Village on Oct. 7 that left upwards of 15 people looking for homes while repairs get underway.
The fire at Eva Lake Village prompted Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden to encourage renters across Whistler to purchase tenant insurance, which can replace items damaged by fire and provide funding to people to purchase accommodation until they find another place to live.
This story has been updated.