Balcony fire forces apartment evacuation

It could be today or even Tuesday before residents of a downtown apartment building are allowed home following a weekend fire.

At least 40 people were evacuated from The Courtyard apartments on Lorne Street when the blaze erupted on a balcony Saturday afternoon.

Maid Shayla Worsfold was cleaning for Gerry Nicholson when she smelled the smoke. At first, she thought her vacuum was overheating, but the smell persisted after she turned it off, Worsfold said Sunday

She was cleaning a rug on the balcony when clouds of dark grey smoke wafted up from apartment 206 below. At that point, Nicholson said they should leave the building.

"I'm scared. Let's get out," she told Worsfold. Flames were visible by the time the women reached the street.

Worsfold said her grandparents live in the same building. She fought to keep her nerves steady as she phoned to warn them about the fire.

"I was franticly phoning them to tell them to get out and tell them it was real and not a fire alarm," she said.

Fire and Rescue battalion chief John Anhorn said a crew setting up for Saturday night's George Thorogood concert at the Interior Savings Centre made the phone call to 911 at 12:56 p.m.

He said the fire spread to a neighbouring apartment and burned onto Nicholson's balcony. Worsfold said Nicholson's sunroom was also damaged.

"For the most part there was just ash throughout the house," she said.

Anhorn said all the residents were evacuated and the fire hurt no one. Sprinklers went off in apartments 206 and 306 and prevented the flames from spreading indoors.

He said no one was home in 206 when the fire started.

Water damage and an ongoing investigation by Fire and Rescue and an insurance company meant residents were not allowed back Saturday night, said Anhorn. Most should be home by today.

"The sprinkler system is being repaired and the alarm system is being repaired," he said. People stayed with friends, family or in the care of Emergency Social Services.

Worsfold said this is the second fire she's experienced first hand. A blaze started in the basement of her family's home when she was child.

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