Lodge evacuated in weekend fire 

Extensive electrical damage at Lake Placid Lodge

There’s a handful of people in Whistler who have been forced out of their homes for the time being after a weekend fire shut down the Lake Placid Lodge in Creekside.

Dan Chisholm, who has been living in a one-bedroom suite at the Lodge with his partner since May, will return to collect air mattresses and other essentials before camping out at his landlord’s unfurnished house in Bayshores until they are allowed back home.

While there may not be furniture at the house, at least there’s power, which is more than can be said for the lodge.

An electrical fire, which broke out on Saturday night, forced roughly 40 people onto the streets as fire crews waited for BC Hydro to shut down power to the four-storey building.

The fire broke out in the electrical vault in the underground parking of Lake Placid Lodge around 10:30 p.m.

Although there was thick smoke billowing from the electrical room, firefighters could not immediately enter the room because of the high electrical hazard.

"There was a considerable amount of power coming into the building," said Fire Chief Bruce Hall.

Two hours later BC Hydro turned off the power to the building and firefighters quickly put out the small fire.

The fire caused extensive damage to the main electrical service in the building, as well as smoke damage throughout.

As of Wednesday tenants and guests had not yet been able to return to the lodge, except to grab a few things.

The Lake Placid Lodge is unique in that there are renters who live there and work in the area, as well as tourists.

On the night of the fire tourists were taken care of by tour operators and property management companies and were set up in alternative accommodations.

But the renters who live there year-round are not the responsibility of the tour companies.

Instead they were taken care of by Whistler’s Personal Disaster Assistance Team, which is made up of six volunteers.

Members of the team rushed to the scene on Saturday night complete with blankets, water and pre-made Red Cross kits.

They brought some tenants to the Holiday Inn where they remained for four days.

By the time the Personal Disaster Assistance team arrived Chisholm had already hitched into town in pajamas and taken a room at the Best Western.

He found out about the assistance the next day when he saw the notices plastered to the walls of the lodge and immediately got in touch.

"The Personal Disaster Assistance program normally provides accommodation, food and other essentials for the first 72 hours after they lose their home," said Clare Fletcher, a volunteer with the organization, who was at the scene on Saturday.

"The provincial emergency program actually pays for it."

In this case, she appealed to the province for more relief because of the length of time the tenants may be out of their homes, as well the difficulty in finding affordable accommodation in Whistler.

She was able to obtain another day’s extension.

In addition to the rooms at the Holiday Inn, the tenants also got vouchers for food at the Grocery Store.

Unfortunately there were some people, about six or seven, that fell through the cracks who did not receive any assistance for the Personal Disaster Assistance program.

Fletcher said this has been very upsetting, both for those who were left out and for the volunteers who tried to help.

She said she posted notices in the building with the number to get into touch with the Personal Disaster Assistance program.

"Unfortunately they did not see the notice in time for us to be able to assist them," she said.

There has been no concrete indication when people will be able to return to the building.

Hall said there were no outside factors that would have sparked the fire,

"It was totally confined within the electrical room itself," he said.

"It was a failure in the system itself that caused the fire."

Twenty-five firefighters arrived on the scene and did a search of the hotel.

While some people left their rooms as soon as the fire alarms started ringing, others ignored the noise and stayed inside.

They were asked to leave the building by searching firefighters.

"I think you find in a lot of cases in buildings where the fire alarm goes off, some people take heed and leave and others say ‘Oh well, it’s just another false alarm.’ Some of the buildings we’ll go to we have people on the balconies watching us come into the scene," said Hall.

"The fire alarm systems are there for a reason."

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