The Dec. 11 fire that left more than 100 people homeless in Langley City was the result of smoking, City fire chief Rory Thompson said in an email to City council members.
"We have concluded our investigation which was conducted with the insurance company investigators," the Thompson email said.
"We have determined that the cause of the fire was the result of the disposal of smoking materials on a 4th floor balcony."
There have been 18 balcony fires in the City in the past five years, Thompson said in a statement released Monday.
Nine of the 18 required direct intervention by the fire department.
All of the nine were caused by improper disposal of "smoker’s material," usually cigarettes butted out in planters, Thompson said.
"Smoker’s material needs to be disposed of in proper ashtrays," Thompson said.
"Potting soil often contains peat moss which is combustible.”
Chief Thompson would like to see installation of sprinklers both on balconies and in attics of all multi-story residential buildings.
“If this building (Paddington) had sprinklers on the balconies and in the attic, this fire likely would not have spread into the attic space.”
Thompson issued a reminder to renters to make sure that they are protected with tenant insurance because building owner’s insurance only covers the structure and not contents belonging to renters.
The parkade under the fire-damaged building has been re-opened and the south face of the building has been stabilized so that residents of the neighbouring building could return to their homes.
Langley City councillor Rudy Storteboom, who lives in a different building in the same complex, said it appears the fire-damaged four-storey will likely have to be demolished and rebuilt.
"I expect that building is not recoverable, but you never know," Storteboom said.
Dinner and a movie for residents
On Saturday night, the nearby Southgate church held a pizza and movie night for residents of the Paddington.
Those who came had dinner, then were transported to the Clova theatre in Cloverdale to watch a movie before returning to the church to make selections from the donations that filled the foyer with everything from blankets to clothes and brand-new children's toys, all donated by church members, local residents and businesses.
Church administrator Debbie White said while the Clova theatre is now a church, the projection equipment remains.
White said the minute the congregation heard about the fire, "it got you thinking, what can you do?"
One of the displaced residents, Simon Bunkowski, told The Times he's moved in with his parents.
"I might be staying with them for a while," said Bunkowski, one of six people with disabilities who were living in Paddington units leased by a local assistance agency.
He said he still hasn't been able to retrieve all his possessions from his second-floor suite, but it appears they may have survived with nothing worse than water damage, and he has insurance.
Paddington residents Jennifer Fox and Kayle Ruscheinski and their six month old daughter Kiera (pictured) said they are also staying with family.
Fox expressed gratitude for the outpouring of help from they community.
"The support has been amazing," she said.
The church said many people deserved credit for making the event happen:
Mark and Vickie Funk from Big Box Outlet Store; Blake and Andrea Edgar from Pavilion Homes; Lance and Shara Holcombe from Customline Homes; Dana Matheson from C&D Logistics; Daniel Cashin from Indigo Chapters in Langley; Alan Dyck from Combine Christian School Transportation Association; the Southgate Moms Group who purchased 86 blankets from Indigo Chapters in Langley for each family and many other volunteers.
Paddington residents in the three surviving buildings are rallying to help their displaced neighbours.
Sarah Lamoureux, who speaks for an ad hoc group of those residents, said they are trying to find a storage unit big enough to permit sorting of the flood of donations that has come in since the fire.
"We need space," Lamoureaux said.
Anyone who might be able to assist is asked to call 778-552-6703.