Something ablaze within an upstairs room at the Alder Inn on Friday afternoon has caused “significant damage,” and led to a closure of businesses and hotel rooms well into Tuesday.
Just after 12 p.m. on Friday Langley Township firefighters were alerted to a blaze that broke out inside the building.
Crews arrived on the scene, at the corner of 272nd Street and Fraser Highway, and quickly extinguished a fire to the contents of an upstairs room.
“[The fire] didn’t get into the structure,” Township platoon captain Doug Simpson explained – “which is good because it’s a very old building and there’s no fire protection system” like sprinklers. There is a fire alarm system.
Smoke spread throughout the adjacent corridor, and tenants upstairs were escorted outside by crews.
These same tenants – some with long-term rental agreements – have yet not been able to return to their homes as of Tuesday.
Simpson admitted that if the blaze had happened at night, the building and its inhabitants may not have been so lucky.
“It would have taken people longer to recognize what was happening,” Simpson said, confirming there have been no reported injuries.
A volunteer at an Aldergrove thrift store, Serina Wright, was behind the till on Friday when a customer alerted her to plumes of black smoke rising out from a window at the back corner of the hotel.
After exiting the Fibromyalgia Wellspring Foundation store on 272nd Street and seeing the signs of fire for herself, she immediately called 9-1-1.
“The smell was mortifying,” Wright said, noting she was initially worried someone was deceased in one of the hotel’s rooms.
“They had me go, and evacuate the beer and wine store and the restaurant,” Wright was instructed by a 9-1-1 call taker.
Both Wright and Veronica Cave – the owner of Veronica’s Gourmet Perogies just across the street – split up to ensure everyone inside the ground-level businesses were evacuated.
Cave ran to the beer and wine store, which faces Fraser Highway, and Wright went through the back of the building to alert Schnitzels employees of the apparent danger.
After turning off the restaurant’s appliances and ovens, and helped out by Wright, two female workers at the family-owned Schnitzels watched the scene unfold from the back parking lot in utter dismay.
“Today is not a good day,” one of the workers told the Aldergrove Star.
“We might lose our business today,” the other worried. The women, sisters, thanked Wright as fire crews arrived to snuff out the flames.
Township firefighters shut off the gas line to the hotel and cordoned the building off for the rest of the weekend.
Secondary fire crews continued to investigate as to what exactly caught on fire within the room and how – which was still inconclusive as of Tuesday afternoon.
Aldergrove resident Alice Swenson, after hearing the news of fire at the inn posted to the Aldergrove Star Facebook page, was glad no one else was hurt.
“Thank goodness,” she said, “that could have been horrific.”
Township assistant fire chief Pat Walker said a final inspection of the building’s condition will be conducted on Wednesday.
“The upstairs is not inhabitable for tenants at this time,” he said, unable to comment further until a full investigation is completed.
The Alder Inn was constructed in 1947 and sits at a main intersection of downtown Aldergrove.
The hotel site, along with two neighbouring lots, was purchased in June by the Township of Langley for $5.4-million.