By The Canadian Press
BRANDON, Man. – One of the community organizations that manages apartments in a building that was damaged by a massive fire that spread through downtown Brandon, Man., over the weekend says it looks like the building can be fixed.
Stephanie Lockerby, with the local chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, says she walked through the four-floor Massey Manor on Monday afternoon.
Flames from a fire that destroyed three buildings in Brandon’s core spread to the roof of Massey Manor, but Lockerby says the fire only appears to have burned curtains and left soot in the suites on the upper floor.
However, she says water damage is extensive throughout the 58-unit building, and that the drywall is soaked.
No one was injured in the blaze.
Lockerby says there’s no time frame for how long repairs will take or when residents will be allowed to collect their belongings, but she says they’re being put up in local hotels for the time being.
“We’re going to connect with them every day to reassure them that we’re not going to make them homeless,” Lockerby said Monday. “We’re going to try to facilitate the hotel accommodations for as long as we possibly can,”
The city said on the weekend that 93 adults and 57 children had registered at an evacuation centre.
The uncertainty has been stressful for evacuees like Debbie Netzel, who is now with other Massey Manor residents at the Victoria Inn Hotel.
“You’re living in a hotel and you have nothing left,” Netzel said. “You don’t know where you’re going to go or what you’re going to do next.”
Firefighters were called in from nearby communities to assist city crews in battling the flames on Saturday and prevent embers from igniting more structures. It was several hours before officials believed they had gotten the upper hand.
A cause for the fire, which is believed to have started in Christy’s Office Plus across the street from Massey Manor, hasn’t yet been determined.
A city news release said that it, along with assistance from the Canadian Red Cross and the province, would continue to care for the evacuees and that discussions between all the organizations that are involved are ongoing as to future accommodations.
Massey Manor was originally constructed as an agricultural supply store and warehouse, and was converted to apartments in the past decade through a partnership between the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Brandon Friendship Centre, which provides services to the Indigenous community, and Habitat for Humanity.
“Initially when it was built, it was designed for tractors,” said Lockerby about the building’s strength.
Lockerby said one idea for housing was that the organizations could reach out to local landlords to see whether homes could be found while Massey Manor is repaired.
The bright spot has been the donations of clothing and other supplies that have poured in for evacuees.
The items have been handled by the Bear Clan Patrol, a volunteer group that patrols inner-city streets. A member of the group also started a GoFundMe page to assist evacuees, and the campaign had raised nearly $9,000 by Monday evening.
“We have an overwhelming amount of donations,” said Tammy Hossack with the Bear Clan Patrol, noting that no more is needed.
Hossack asked people to keep an eye on the group’s Facebook and Twitter accounts in case appeals for specific items are made.
—By Rob Drinkwater in Edmonton