Motel fire leaves tenants in lurch

For some, the fire at Whitehorse's Stratford Motel was an inconvenience, but for others it was a tragedy. There were 49 people booked into the hotel when the fire broke out on Saturday night.

For some, the fire at Whitehorse’s Stratford Motel was an inconvenience, but for others it was a tragedy.

There were 49 people booked into the hotel when the fire broke out on Saturday night.

Many were visitors in town for the Yukon Native Hockey Tournament.

But for more than half of the 49 people, the motel was their home, said NDP MLA Jan Stick.

“My business is right across the street and I know a lot of people who live there permanently,” she said.

When the fire started, Stick spent three hours passing around her cellphone and trying to help people find somewhere to stay.

“There was lots of confusion,” she said. “I was looking for someone to say, ‘This is where you can go, this is the emergency plan, and there wasn’t any of that.”

While Stick was on the scene, she said she didn’t see much of a response from government.

Nine of the people displaced by the fire are social assistance clients.

“No one seemed to be responsible for looking out for these individuals,” she said.

But there were two social workers at the scene, said Doug Graham, the minister for Health and Social Services.

They showed up only after the RCMP contacted them, and Graham says that should have happened more quickly.

“I don’t know if the criticism directed yesterday by Jan was entirely warranted,” he said. “But we do have to make sure that (first responders) are aware of the services that we provide and how to get a hold of those people.

“I think some better planning is also warranted. You know, we’ve never had this situation in the past.”

Everyone who was displaced by the fire has been able to find somewhere to stay, said Graham.

“Some of them aren’t perfect arrangements, but we’re continuing to work on finding facilities that are more suited to these folks until Stratford is back in operation.”

Just how long that could take no one can say.

The fire department said the blaze damaged eight rooms and caused about $300,000 worth of damage. It took more than six hours to put the fire out.

“We never had flames showing on the outside of the building ever. The only thing you could see from the outside was smoke,” said Whitehorse fire Chief Clive Sparks.

“We had it all knocked down and we thought we had it out and then it started to flare up again.

Most of the fire was contained inside the walls and floor joists, he said.

“It was in some really miserable places to have to work,” he said.

The preliminary investigation determined that a malfunctioning boiler caused the blaze.

“It ended up having a fuel leak and that caught fire,” said Sparks.

And it didn’t seem that the boiler had been properly maintained.

“There was no indication that it had been serviced by a qualified person in quite some time,” said Sparks. Motel owners Eddy and Bonnie Ng said they wanted to talk to their insurance company before commenting on the fire.

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com

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