'No known cause' for Alpine House fire 

Investigation complete with no definitive explanation

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - INVESTIGATION WRAPPED "No known cause" is the official finding of the Whistler Fire Services investigation into the Nov. 10 blaze at Alpine House.
  • Photo by Braden Dupuis
  • INVESTIGATION WRAPPED "No known cause" is the official finding of the Whistler Fire Services investigation into the Nov. 10 blaze at Alpine House.

Whistler's Fire Chief has wrapped up the investigation into the Alpine House fire and has determined there is "no known cause."

Geoff Playfair knows where the fire began; what is less clear is how it started.

The Nov. 10 fire, which displaced homeowners and tenants in 21 units leaving roughly 70 to 80 people homeless, began on a deck in one of the back ground-floor units.

"The overriding problem here for determining a cause was... we're dealing with an area (the deck) that the public had free access to, anybody could walk by there, anybody could do anything," said Playfair. "And I'm not saying it was intentionally caused, but because any number of people had the ability to access the area, and do something accidental or otherwise, it makes it extremely difficult to narrow down what happened... When it's outside, the sky's the limit, really."

He dispelled the rumour about there being a bag of ashes involved. The unit, he added, had no fireplace.

As for the other rumour that it began with a cigarette, the chief also explained that tobacco burns at relatively low temperature.

"Is it a possibility (that it started with a cigarette)? Sure. Is it a probability? Hmm, not so much," said Playfair.

The asbestos issues in the drywall mud, and the cold temperatures, made the investigation difficult and slow, he added.

On the plus side, the building alarms functioned well, as did the various smoke alarms in the units and that helped ensure that everyone was able to get out of the building safely.

The building firewall separation also held up well, which ensured the fire was contained to one half of the building, although the other half had extensive water and smoke damage.

As he reviewed the fire investigation, Playfair also took the time to again reinforce the issue of tenant insurance. Some of the tenants at Alpine House had insurance, while others did not.

"Tenant insurance is available for about $1 a day and it can be very helpful," said Playfair.

Though Playfair's investigation is closed, any witnesses who have not yet come forward are asked to contact the Whistler RCMP at 604-932-3044 or the fire department at 604-935-8260.

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