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Kelowna’s fire chief says ‘enough risk’ resulted in building evacuation order – Okanagan



Kelowna’s fire chief says ‘enough risk’ resulted in building evacuation order - Okanagan

The building that was evacuated earlier in the week near downtown Kelowna was fenced off Wednesday and sitting empty.

“We felt that at this point, there was enough risk that the city needed to step in, and specifically myself as the fire chief, to step in and order an evacuation of the building,” said Kelowna fire chief Dwight Seymour.

The residents living at Hadgraft-Wilson Place on Bertram Street were ordered out after geotechnical and structural engineering reports raised some serious concerns.

“There was a risk if further movement happens that there could be structural damage to the building which could impede life safety,” Seymour told Global News on Wednesday.

Seymour added that life safety systems such as fire doors and sprinkler infrastructure could also be at risk.

The building, operated by the non-profit organization Pathways Abilities Society, has many signs of a shifting foundation including massive cracks throughout the complex.

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The damage is being blamed on the adjacent construction of UBC Okanagan’s downtown campus.

“We wanted to do a coordinated systematic evacuation so that we weren’t forced to do in the middle of the night a tactical evacuation saying get out now…and make sure that we don’t end up with anything catastrophic or that we don’t end up where we’re responding for a rescue or recovery at a later date,” Seymour said.

Click to play video: 'City monitoring damage caused by UBCO build'

City monitoring damage caused by UBCO build

The 68-unit affordable complex is home to 80-plus residents on low income and many are on disability.

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The building was only completed about nine months ago.

While the residents  are being supported by Pathways and B.C. Housing, a spokesperson for the city said it’s also trying to do what it can to help.

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“City staff have reached out to our contacts in the development and real estate community here in Kelowna and we have been able to identify some housing and rental housing that will be available if longer term supports are needed,” said Lance Kayfish, the city’s risk manager. “We’re also in ongoing discussions with Emergency Management and Climate Resiliency B.C. about other supports that might be available.”

On Tuesday, UBC-Okanagan said it has decided to stop work on-site for now as it consults with geotechnical engineers before moving forward.

“I do want to say just how sorry we are that we have gotten to this point that the residents were evacuated,” Lesley Cormack principal and deputy vice-chancellor of UBC Okanagan said. “We did not in any way expect the level of movement in the soil and the substrata that has happened,” she said.

The university said it’s been measuring ground movement regularly and changed the underground parkade from four storeys to only two to prevent having to dig any deeper and solutions are being sought in conjunction with others involved.

“We are definitely looking at what we can do. We’ve been in active conversation with Pathways and B.C. Housing about this,” Cormack said. “Some of the problems are more cosmetic, and some are more structural, so that obviously needs to be ascertained, and we will look at how we can partner to fix the building.”

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The city is acting as a convener bringing together all of the stakeholders as the building’s damage is assessed and plans are made on how to proceed.

“I can tell you daily, and in some cases, hourly meetings are taking place between registered professionals and all the other stakeholders that need to be involved,” Kayfish said.

Pathways and residents of the building will be updated on Friday  but

“We believe that the building will be able to be re-occupied, ” Kayfish said. “There’s likely going to be some work to re-occupy the building–at this time a shoring and bracing plan to stabilize the building and assure anyone in that building is safe is being worked on.”

Click to play video: 'More structural damage blamed on UBCO construction'

More structural damage blamed on UBCO construction

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