YWCA kitchen fire deemed accidental

Matt Gardner
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An early morning fire at the Prince Albert YWCA on Monday was the accidental result of combustible material being left on a stovetop, a local fire inspector said.

Fire inspector Dave Davies identified a plastic kettle left on a stove element as the chief culprit behind the blaze.

“It was an accidental fire,” Davies said. “Combustible material was on the stovetop, and when the stove was turned on, the element was on as well, unknowingly. During cleaning it got bumped.”

“Their stoves are usually shut off in the evening -- powered off so that nobody can use them, because they don’t want people cooking in the middle of the night there,” he added.

“When they turned it back on … remotely from the breaker, an electric kettle was on top of the rear element and of course the element was on and ignited. It melted the plastic, which caused the fire, which caused smoke damage and some extension into the cupboards above the stove.”

No injuries were reported as a result of the fire, which the Prince Albert Fire Department responded to at approximately 6:30 a.m.

Davies noted that while there was some smoke damage to the second floor of the YWCA building, the fire itself caused minimal damage, with the blaze confined to the stovetop and some overhead cupboards.

Following the arrival of the firefighters, evacuees were relocated into the lobby of Courtview Apartments next door and into emergency response vehicles while the firefighters performed their work.

Entry crews first knocked the fire down with a portable extinguisher before turning a fire hose on it to complete the job. Ventilation efforts helped clear smoke and carbon monoxide from the area, and within a short time residents were permitted to re-enter the building.

YWCA CEO Donna Brooks praised the performance of the fire department. She noted that the building is also constructed with fire doors and other precautions to help minimize the spread of fires.

“The fire itself was contained to that kitchen and living area, but there was smoke damage to the 10 bedrooms that are in that section,” Brooks said.

“So the rest of the building, albeit a little sullied from the fire, is OK … The other half upstairs is OK as well as our main floor, other than a little bit of water.”

Initial damage estimates amounted to $10,000. Brooks, however, anticipated that the final cost would be much greater -- though insurance is expected to cover most of those expenses.

The fire itself was contained to that kitchen and living area, but there was smoke damage to the 10 bedrooms that are in that section. Donna Brooks

The larger effect, she said, would be the loss of 10 bedrooms and the resulting loss of the shelter’s ability to house people.

“The rest we can work around,” Brooks said. “But the biggest impact is it takes away 10 of those rooms.

“Hopefully we have those rooms open and cleaned up within the next couple of weeks,” she added.

The entire kitchen area, Brooks said, would have to be gutted and replaced along with flooring in the living area.

A similar fire occurred at the YWCA in 2009, which gives staff members some idea of what to expect this time around. Subsequent repairs and cleanup in that case lasted almost two months.

The 10 bedrooms impacted by Monday’s fire housed a total of 13 residents, whom the YWCA was able to find alternative accommodations for in its existing facilities.

“We had a couple empty rooms over in the other half … of our upstairs (area), so we were able to move some over there,” Brooks said.

“We were able to move our female youth all over to our youth peer home on Sixth Avenue, and then we were able to move two of our clients down to Our House, because we had a couple empty beds down there. So we managed to find places for all our existing clients that were affected by the fire.”

Brooks thanked the fire department for minimizing damage from the fire, as well as Parkland Ambulance and Courtview Apartment for providing shelter from the cold for evacuees while the firefighters dealt with the blaze.

Davies, for his part, praised the work of YWCA staff members in facilitating the work of the firefighters -- particularly by performing an accountability check to verify that everyone was out of the building.

“An accountability check just ensures that everybody has evacuated, which makes our job easier because then we can just go after the fire instead of worrying about rescuing and looking for people,” Davies said. “So they did a really good job up there.”

Organizations: YWCA, Prince Albert Fire Department, Our House

Geographic location: Sixth Avenue

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