Fire damage lessened by quick-thinking couple 

Added time 'crucial' to containing blaze, fire chief says

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - DAMAGE DONE Whistler fire chief Geoff Playfair surveys the damage caused by an early morning fire at the Tamarisk Estates on Aug. 28.
  • Photo by Braden Dupuis
  • DAMAGE DONE Whistler fire chief Geoff Playfair surveys the damage caused by an early morning fire at the Tamarisk Estates on Aug. 28.

Had it not been for the quick thinking of two people, an early morning fire at the Tamarisk Estates on August 28 may have been much worse.

Osian Morgan and Grace Mitchell were sleeping in the building adjacent to Tamarisk's "Gear Jammer" building when they were awoken by a strange sound.

"I thought it was a tap dripping," Morgan recalled. "Grace was like, 'no no, that's not a tap, the room is glowing from outside, that's a fire."

Mitchell called 911 while Morgan ran into the burning building to alert the sleeping residents.

"We've lived in apartment buildings quite a few times and we know when the alarm goes off, sometimes you kind of ignore it," Morgan said.

"I ran upstairs and pounded on all the doors in the apartment just to get everybody out, and then ran back and pounded all the doors in our building and we got everybody out and just waited for them to show up."

Because of the quick thinking of Morgan and Mitchell, Whistler fire crews were on scene 15 or 20 minutes before they might have been.

"Those 15 or 20 minutes were fairly crucial in being able to keep the fire to the units where it started off rather than having it spread significantly through the building," said Whistler fire chief Geoff Playfair.

"It's a crucial time frame when a fire is building... once they're going they increase their appetite, and so that 15 minutes was very important."

Once fire crews were on the scene, they were able to suppress the fire before it spread to neighbouring buildings.

Not all of the units were damaged, Playfair said, but several on the second and third floors have smoke and water damage.

If it weren't for the quick work of fire crews — and some timely rain — the situation could have been much worse, Playfair noted.

"It was a fantastic job. It was a quick hit. The timing was perfect between when the call came through from the alarm company and our guys arriving on the scene," he said.

"With the forest around us here, a week earlier, you can only imagine what might have happened."

The incident is still under investigation and no cause has been determined. While investigating the fire, officials discovered that the 1970s building had asbestos in the drywall, which will complicate the clean up, and likely lengthen the timeline for residents to return to their homes.

Whistler Blackcomb is offering temporary housing for those displaced by the fire — call 604-938-7500 for more info.

The team at Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) is also ready to help — they can be reached at 604-932-0113.

"We just want to remind people that our outreach team is here for ongoing emotional support and food bank support... and also if they need some support in terms of clothing or hygiene products or toiletries," said WCSS outreach worker Jackie Dickinson. "Any way we can connect people to service, we will."

Commenters on a post on the Whistler Summer Facebook group have also offered help — everything from home cooked meals, to clothes and beds.

"I'm always amazed to see, outside of community services, what people in this community offer up and what they're willing to do," Dickinson said, adding that anyone willing to donate clothes can do so at the Re-Use-It Centre.

"I'm sure that it's completely overwhelming for people who have lost everything, and it will take some time for them for it all to settle in."

Samurai sushi Creekside is accepting donations for victims of the Tamarisk Fire as well. Donations can include clothing, items or money. There is also a Nesters points card for the victims of the fire. There will be a silent auction fundraising event for the victims of the Tamarisk Fire — the “Beyond the Blaze” event will be held at Creekbread on September 22, 2015.

Morgan said he and Mitchell wanted to thank the Whistler fire crews, WB, and everyone in the community who has offered support for those affected.

"We're really appreciative of the firemen for coming and getting everything sorted," he said. "It could have been a lot worse for a lot more people."

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