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Gibsons condo fire destroys eight residences

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Eight units at the Park Rise condo complex were destroyed by fire on Aug. 30. Donna McMahon photo

A serious fire at a Gibsons condo complex on August 30 destroyed eight units and has left the residents homeless for months to come.

Gibsons Fire Chief Rob Michael received the call at 5:12 pm, and due to the extreme fire hazard, responded with everything at the department’s disposal. “We were not even on scene before we called for a mutual aid response from Roberts Creek,” said Michael.

As luck would have it, Wednesday was firefighter practice night, so all the members were available. A total of 39 firefighters attended the blaze at the 48-unit Park Rise condo complex, 689 Park Rd. The building’s residents were evacuated safely and, despite leaping flames and bone- dry conditions, the fire was contained.

28-year old Ikeoluwa Oni, who has lived in Gibsons since last November, was on her way home from work when she saw smoke billowing out of the building.

“I saw the apartment on fire and the fire fighters were trying to stop it,” said Oni. “The fire was successfully put out in the end, however, following this incident I am traumatized and still in shock as I have lost all my personal belongings.”

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Emergency Social Services Director Marilyn Pederson, left, and Ikeoluwa Oni, who lost everything in the condo fire and is not covered by insurance. Donna McMahon photo

Oni received another nasty surprise when she discovered that her roommate’s homeowner insurance did not cover Oni because she was renting a room. Firefighters later recovered a drenched suitcase containing Oni’s passport and other crucial documents, but she has lost everything else.

“Right now I have nothing to myself, no shelter nor belongings and I don’t know what else to do and how to move forward,” said Oni.

Sunshine Coast Emergency Social Services Director, Marilyn Pederson, was also leaving her office on Gibsons Way when she saw the smoke. So she actually arrived before the fire department. Before she left the scene that evening she was able to talk to all the residents. “I made sure everyone had some place to go with somebody,” said Pederson.

Pederson has received a flood of calls from people offering temporary places to stay and donations. London Drugs supplied the fire victims with essential sundries. And the Gibsons Legion stepped forward to organize a fundraising dinner on September 2. “The community has been amazing,” said Pederson.

With people dropping off donations in the days after the fire – and the Saturday night beer and burger fundrasiser with live music – the Gibsons Legion collected almost $8,700. Clothing donations were sent to Christian Life Assembly for distribution.

The provincial Emergency Management program provides food, shelter and clothing for up to 72 hours for people who have no insurance and would otherwise be left with nothing, but after the 72 hours they are on their own. Most of the Park Rise residents had insurance and will have their possessions replaced, but Oni and a young couple with a baby have lost everything.

People who wish to help the fire victims should phone the legion at 604-886-2411, and cheques should be made out to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #109; they are only accepting money.

Ikeoluwa Oni has no place to live as of October 14, and is asking anyone who can help to contact her at ikeoluwaoni@gmail.com.

The fire was caused by a propane barbeque on a balcony, and Fire Chief Michael reminds residents to make sure that barbeques are kept clean, are not operated close to combustibles, and are supervised at all times. He said the incident sparked discussion among the fire crews, most of whom have home barbeques themselves. “We realized we need to lead by example.”  Donna McMahon

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