Alpine fire investigation continues 

Function fire caused by 'spontaneous combustion'

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Whistler Fire Rescue Services is still investigating the cause of the Alpine fire that ripped through a condo complex on Nov. 10, displacing all residents in the 21-unit building.The investigation is expected to wrap up in the coming days.

"We're still collecting witness statements, still going through videos and photographs... trying to piece it all together," said fire chief Geoff Playfair.

"Definitely all the early statements say that the fire was coming from a few of the decks at the back of the building.

"At this point we can't really speculate."The Alpine House fire, which began around 10:30 a.m. and quickly spread to the attic of the complex, comes on the heels of a nighttime fire in Function Junction at a commercial/industrial unit on Nov. 2. Whistler Laundry operates from the premises.

That investigation is now complete.

"It started up with spontaneous combustion in a laundry basket from some oily sheets from a massage spa," said the chief.

"It's not uncommon for laundered fabrics, when they have some oily contents, to spontaneously combust."

In this case, the laundry basket was under a table in the middle of the room, next to other baskets. It scorched the bottom of the table and burned up the contents in the baskets and then set off the ceiling sprinklers.

"When we arrived it was simply ventilated and (we) put a few embers out but the fire was extinguished by the sprinkler system," said Playfair.

Whistler Laundry is working to open its Function location by the second week of December but there has been no disruption in service as it implemented its emergency contingency plan for existing clients.

Despite the ongoing investigation in Alpine, Playfair said there are still lessons to be learned from the residential fire. The biggest, and the one that never seems to go away in Whistler, is the issue around renters insurance, or lack thereof.

Very few had renters insurance in the latest fire, he said.

"It's very, very common and it's unfortunate," added the chief.

The $40 to $50 monthly cost may seem like a lot, particularly for workers on minimum wage, he admitted, but in the broader picture it can make a huge difference, especially after a fire that wipes out everything in its path, giving the residents just precious minutes to escape with their lives.

One of the common refrains from Alpine residents, as they stood watching their homes burn last week, is not only how fast the fire spread but also that you never think it's going to happen to you."And yet it does," said Playfair. "And certainly in Whistler we hear the story (of no renters insurance) over and over."

Updates on the investigation will be published as they becomes available, on www.piquenewsmagazine.com.

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