An elderly woman is dead following a fire Sept. 26 at the Red Rock Manor seniors housing complex in Lillooet.
The victim has been identified as longtime Lillooet resident Dorothy Roberts, 75.
The fire was an accident, and investigators believe it was caused by a cigarette. An oxygen tank was nearby but authorities are not yet 100 per cent certain that the tank was turned on. More lab tests will need to be conducted to confirm a definitive cause of the fire.
No one else was injured in the blaze, which broke out shortly after 11 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 26. The Lillooet Fire Department, Lillooet RCMP and BC Ambulance Service all attended at the scene. When they arrived, they found a fully active fire in Roberts' Unit #2. The blaze was quickly extinguished by firefighters, but Roberts was unable to escape the fire and was pronounced deceased at the scene.
"Heartfelt thanks go our to everyone," said RCMP Cpl. Darrell Robinson. "The response time from the Fire Department was phenomenal. It was an extremely emotional time for them and yet they remained so professional."
Roberts was the mother of firefighter Dan Storkan. He responded to the fire call along with the other department members.
Red Rock Manor tenant Sandra Greer said the Fire Department was at the Manor within five minutes.
"I know because I was the person who called in the fire," she told the News Sept. 29.
Fire investigators from the Lower Mainland and Prince George attended at the fire scene the next morning.
Residents of the 21-unit complex had to be evacuated and then relocated with family and friends for the night due to the extensive smoke in the building.
"People from all over the community came and offered help," said Cpl. Robinson. "We had hotel owners offering to put people up, people in general offered to take people in and a lot of the tenants have family in the community. Once the families were contacted, they came to help, too."
Red Rock Manor tenants were able to return to their apartments Wednesday afternoon after the building was fully assessed for smoke and water damage.
Damage was primarily contained to the one unit (suite #2) with some minor smoke damage to the surrounding common areas. Lillooet Contracting was retained Sept. 27 to review the suite once clearance was given by the RCMP.?
Contrary to one early report, a spokesperson for the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines and Minister Responsible for Housing said the smoke detection and alarm monitoring systems were fully functioning at the time of the fire.
"The safety and security of our residents is a primary concern and the province is thankful the smoke detectors and alarm monitoring systems worked so that there were no additional injuries as a result of the fire," said the spokesperson.
Sandra Greer also said the systems worked appropriately. "I went down to the fire panel to check. Both the smoke detector and fire alarm lights were on."
The ministry representative also said there is a fire safety evacuation plan for the building and it also worked.
Greer confirmed the evacuation plan worked "smoothly."
She said tenants initially gathered in the lounge, but because some suffer from respiratory problems and the smoke was getting thicker, the decision was made to move people outside.
"I want to say a heartfelt thanks to everyone," she told the News. "People just seemed to spring up out of the asphalt, offering food, places to stay, whatever they could. Lillooet sometimes politically drives me nuts, but I tell people, 'If you're going to have some kind of bad thing happen to you, Lillooet's the place to be.'"