The Williams Lake fire department responded to a fire at a neglected motel in the downtown early Thursday.
At around 3 a.m. a citizen noticed smoke coming from one of the rooms at the end of the Slumber Lodge Motel on Seventh Avenue South and called the fire in.
Damage was contained to a mattress and an arm chair, and while obvious someone had been in the room, fire chief Randy Isfeld says it’s not known whether the fire was caused intentionally or accidentally.
“The Slumber Lodge has been abandoned for many years,” Isfeld says. “It’s causing us and the RCMP a fair bit of concern. People are breaking into it in the evening, crashing, sleeping or partying in there. The police have been down there many times routing people out of there.”
On the morning of the fire, there was nobody in the room when the fire department arrived, but when firefighters and the RCMP checked all of the other rooms, they discovered someone sleeping in one of the suites around the corner.
Fortunately Thursday’s fire was contained to one suite and was put out quickly, but Isfeld says there was the fear that there were people sleeping in other suites and the whole place had to be checked.
He worries that some day someone might be heavily intoxicated, break into the building, pass out and not escape from a fire.
“It won’t be just about going to a fire; there’ll be a victim involved,” he warns.
At its June 5 regular meeting, city council endorsed a motion to require the owners of the motel to beef up security at the building by blocking access to the suites and/or hiring security.
The owners presently live in Vancouver, but were in the city in June and did talk to the city.
They have been given until June 25 to acknowledge the city’s request, and until July 12 to do the work.
If not, the city will proceed with the work, and charge the owners.
Isfeld says Wednesday’s fire emphasizes the need for the motel to be secured properly.
“We are trying to get the owners to co-operate and board the building up so these kinds of things won’t happen. At this point nothing’s been done.”
He also explains that several orders have been written for the building by the fire department since as far back as 2002, but those have been basically ignored.
“The remedial action will allow us to take some action if they don’t do it themselves, but certainly we would like the owners to take some responsibility for it themselves.”
Another concern is the fact there’s still hydro and gas to the building.
“We were fortunate that someone, at 3 a.m. noticed the fire and called it in. We got there within six minutes and were able to contain the fire quite quickly, but it could have easily been the other way around and that fire could have really got going, much like the Williams Inn (fire) in February. That fire took off like crazy.”