UPDATED: Cigarette suspected cause of Paddington fire

The investigation into the cause of the fire has almost wrapped up.

Passerby and residents from the building watched as fire consumed the upper floor.

An investigation by Langley City Fire-Rescue has confirmed that smoking materials, such as a cigarette, sparked the fire that ravaged the Paddington Station condos in Langley City on Dec. 11.

The fire began in the corner of a balcony, started by “smoking materials,” said fire chief Rory Thompson.

Exactly what was first set alight by the discarded cigarette or cigar isn’t known, but from the balcony the fire made its way into the roof and then spread throughout the entire upper part of the four-storey condo building.

The upper balconies and attics of condos four storeys or less are not required to have sprinklers in B.C., although Rich Coleman, minister of housing, has indicated that may change soon in response to the fire.

Balcony fires are one of the major causes of serious fires in Langley City, said Thompson.

“We’ve gone to 18 reported fires on balconies in the last five years,” said Thompson.

Half of those required the department to actively extinguish the fire – the other half were put out by sprinklers or people with fire extinguishers – and all of those requiring fire department intervention were caused by discarded cigarettes or other smoking materials, Thompson said.

Residents were able to get their cars out of the  condo complex on Thursday for the first time since the fire.

The only entrance to the garage was under the burned section of the condo complex, said Langley City Councillor Rudy Storteboom. Storteboom is also a resident of one of the undamaged buildings of the complex and sits on its strata council.

Rumours had circulated that the cars were in four feet of water following the fire, but fortunately they were unfounded, he said.

“It doesn’t appear to be that way with the parking garage,” said Storteboom.

There was some mud in a few areas, and some sodden ceiling insulation fell on a few cars, but there didn’t seem to be any serious damage.

Several fundraisers continue to be planned, including one announced for the NY Grill and Bistro, close to the condos, set for Dec. 21 from 6-9 p.m. Organizers are offering dinner for $20 with a burger, fries and a beer, with proceeds going to help displaced tenants through the strata organization.

On Monday night, the Friends Langley Vineyard Church teamed up with Beyond Compare Ministries and Kimz Angels to host a full Christmas dinner for the displaced residents, including entertainment and gifts.

Vicki’s Paw Spa in Langley City also offered free baths and tidies for the pets of Paddington residents on Monday, Dec. 19.

Numerous other fundraisers, from online efforts to the major concert Tuesday night at the Langley Events Centre, have been taking place or are planned for the coming days.

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