Three-Alarm Fire.

The good news:

  • No one was injured - or worse. 
  • The iconic Hycroft Towers that many South Granvillers call home is still intact and will continue to be our home.
  • Fire Hall No 4 on Granville and 10th (not to mention the other responding units) worked quickly and efficiently and deserve massive accolades. 

My story:

The alarm began shrieking  just before 3am. After 20 minutes of excruciating ringing, coupled with being very aware that outside we were hearing more than just the local fire department arriving - it was apparent there was an actual emergency this time and not just an elderly woman who dozed off while wearing a head full of hot rollers. 

News coverage suggests the entire building was evacuated. Nope. By entire, they must have meant 95%. Boyfriend and I remained in our suite for the entire thing. In fact, if it weren’t for the 2 hours of screeching fire bell in the hall, I wager we’d have no idea there was a three-alarm fire in the building. That’s not to diminish the event’s severity, it’s more a testament to the concrete structure, durability and the overall architecture of the building. The two of us were incredibly lucky. Apart from some storage unit woes, we have very little to worry about. Sadly this is not the case for many of our fellow Hycrofters. 

 Photo © 2013 Helena McMurdo 

 Photo © 2013 Helena McMurdo 

The fire was on the seventh floor in a vacant suite that was undergoing renovations. Yesterday afternoon, after surveying the outside of the building and seeing the charred shell of what was a beautiful 1200 sq ft heritage apartment, we went upstairs to check out the damage. As to be expected, it’s pretty bad. Smoke residue and murky watermarks cover the length of the building’s west wing and the smell is really quite noxious. The Fire department set up ventilation, which no doubt has diminished the stench. The rest of the building is in varying degrees of pungentness – but the smoky smell only lingers slightly on the floors below level 3.

 Photo © 2013 Helena McMurdo 

 Photo © 2013 Helena McMurdo 

Considering the extraordinarily quick results in dousing the flames plus keeping them contained to the one unit, the level of damage overall is rather significant. Again, the media (“Officials say most of the damage has been contained to the empty unit, with some other parts of the building suffering minor smoke damage.“) said the fire was contained. This is true. Yes, the visible smoke damage may be relatively cosmetic. However - to use a very basic analogy - if you’ve ever sat by a campfire for an hour in the open air you know how thorough smoke particles are at penetrating everything you wear. Now imagine that campfire is 100x the size and in your living room. Smoke does a lot more than just stain walls. I have a hunch a couple of insurance companies were wringing their grimy hands together this week. When one gets insurance against fire, does that include the damage caused by gallons of water to put out said fire? From the seventh floor down to the first floor there is water damage. Albeit like the smoke, varying degrees of severity. 

With restoration trucks on the scene bright an early yesterday morning, it's nice to think the historical Vancouver landmark is already in the very preliminary stages of recuperation. We at the South Granville Inhabiter extend our sympathy to the affected residents of Hycroft Towers and are extremely thankful that no one was hurt.