UPDATED: City orders emergency evacuation of downtown apartment building
The City of Moose Jaw and the Moose Jaw Fire Department ordered an emergency evacuation of an apartment building at the corner of Stadacona Street and First Avenue Northwest on Tuesday. City building officials and the fire department conducted an inspection on Monday and found numerous fire code violations and determined there were "no life-saving measures currently in operation." This included no working fire alarms or carbon monoxide alarms and the fire alarm pull stations were not functioning because the power was off. Fire Chief Rod Montgomery explained what triggered the inspection. "We did receive some complaints and then from there we got more information about the building and details of the owners, etc. that triggered us to go back and take a look and that was the initiator to it," Montgomery said. The city has started the process of contacting the registered owner of the building. On Tuesday, the city and the fire department evacuated the building due to the immediate safety risks to the tenants and the occupants of the building in accordance with the Fire Safety Act. The building has 18 units, two of which were vacant, and about 24 people were evacuated. The inspection also revealed a gas leak and build up that resulted in the valve being shut off. "To some degree, we were quite lucky as gas was building up in the place. The inspector shut the gas to the building off at that time. We are fortunate that happened or it could have been a lot worse," Montgomery said. Other risks noted included windows that could not be opened, deteriorating exterior flooring on fire escapes, suites that do not have doors or locks and accumulation of combustibles, some of which were blocking emergency exits. The gas to the entire building had been shut off and the power had been turned off to the common areas of the apartment building. It's believed that the building was built in 1910. The last inspection done by the fire department was in June. Montogomery said there were non-compliance issues at the time but the fire department was working with the owner and felt those issues were being addressed. However, Montgomery said changes happened and the situation deteriorated quickly. Occupants were given time to gather personal belongings and co-ordinate alternative places to stay. Those impacted will be allowed to return at a later date to gather their remaining items. The Moose Jaw Police Service PACT unit and community paramedics are helping with the evacuation. Police Chief Rick Bourassa said officers responded to that apartment building 107 times in the first six months of this year for a variety of situations. "During our times in there, we of course developed relationships with a lot of the people because we were there to help. That became pretty valuable in these last few days when we were able to engage them and explain that they didn't need to be living in these conditions," Bourassa said. Emergency services believe everyone has been relocated with the help of Social Services. The John Howard Society is offering additional support with hygiene packs, and food and clothing donations. The Moose Jaw Housing Authority is providing applications for available housing units. Anyone wishing to make a donation can drop it off at the John Howard Society at 15 Hochelaga Street West. In response to Canada's Online News Act and Meta (Facebook and Instagram) removing access to local news from their platforms, Discover Moose Jaw encourages you to get your news directly from your trusted source by bookmarking this page and downloading the Discover Moose Jaw app HERE.