Fire erupts at Surrey apartment building, forcing dozens from their homes

A massive fire erupted at a Surrey apartment building Tuesday evening, forcing dozens of people from their homes.

Witnesses said the flames moved quickly across the roof, and smoke plunged the neighbourhood into darkness.

Firefighters got a call around 5:30 p.m. to the property near 140th Street and 70th Avenue, and worked for hours to get the fire under control. They were still at the scene 12 hours later.

A neighbour told CTV News the fire started on one side of the three-storey wood-frame apartment building, then moved up into the roof. From there, the wind carried the flames across.

"At one point (the flames) engulfed almost the entirety of the roof, and they were shooting a good 10 feet outward and 15 feet upward," area resident Kyle Hall said.

"When the roof would collapse it would gain an insane amount of oxygen."

Neighbours watched from the street, some even bringing water bottles to firefighters trying to work through the intense smoke.

Eighty residents were displaced, including Nicky Britz and her three-year-old daughter.

“This is my worst nightmare – a fire at my condo,” said Britz. She believes the flames spared her unit, but expects the smoke and water damage will be extensive.

“I’m in shock. I feel for my neighbours that have lost everything. This is going to be a very long-term fix.”

On Thursday afternoon, fire crews continued to put out hotspots on what they described as an extremely stubborn blaze. Firefighters tackled the flames from above and through the interior, but getting to the flames proved to be challenging.

“We had logistics that were difficult to get the aerials in close,” said Shelley Morris, assistant fire chief with the Surrey Fire Service.

“We had some rapid spread in the interior. It’s a very large building. There’s a lot of hot spots in the attics in some of the void spaces, so it did some extensions through there.”

Officials said there had been no reports of injuries, and that it was too early to determine a cause. That will be part of the investigation when it's safe enough to go inside. However, residents had an idea of what might have sparked it.

“There’s speculation that it could’ve been a barbecue gas cannister,” said Britz. “It didn’t explode, but it caught fire somehow.”

Surrey Fire said residents would not be allowed back inside to gather belongings for at least a couple of days.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Kendra Mangione and Alissa Thibault