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UPDATE: One confirmed dead in Langley City fire
One man has died and several people were taken to hospital — three in critical condition — following a fire at Rainbow Lodge affordable housing complex in Langley City on Wednesday morning.
Six residents had to be rescued from their balconies after a fire broke out in a second storey unit of one of the buildings in the large complex.
Flames quickly shot up to the third floor and black smoke could be seen from several blocks away.
According to Langley City fire chief Rory Thompson, firefighters were able to knock down the fire in two minutes but there was significant "thick, black smoke" inside the building.
A firefighter discovered the deceased senior in the smoke-filled hallway of the second floor near the fire. Thompson said he didn't know if that was the person living in the unit where the fire started. He also wouldn't say if the deceased is male or female.
On Thursday, Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender confirmed that a man had died in the fire
Nine residents were taken away by ambulance, and three are in critical condition, said Thompson.
"There was soot on their faces," he said, indicating that they are suffering from severe smoke inhalation. The others were also suffering with smoke inhalation.
"There was a significant rescue task to undertake because we couldn't evacuate people through the building because the smoke was too thick. We had to take them through their balconies," he said.
The fire was contained to the two units but smoke and water damage is extensive. More than 40 residents have been displaced from their suites, with 40 units impacted by the fire, said Thompson.
The Personal Disaster Assistance program will provide housing, clothing and money for food for three days, but Thompson is looking to see if the province can extend that until over the weekend.
The Langley Lions Seniors Housing Society runs the large subsidized housing complex located at 203 Street and 54 Avenue.The housing complex is made up mainly of seniors living on a fixed income.
Langley RCMP are investigating the fire, as are City fire investigators. It's not known if it is suspicious or not.
"When we arrived flames were rolling up to the third floor," said Thompson. "This is a non-sprinklered building so we were lucky to knock it down quickly."
All City fire crews and trucks were out and Township fire halls were also called in to assist, as well as at least four ambulances and numerous paramedics.
Five fire engines, a tower and rescue vehicle were brought in, as well as 40 firefighters.
According to one second floor resident, he smelled smoke around 9:30 a.m.
He tried to escape through his front door into the hallway, but the smoke was too thick.
He went to his balcony, closed the glass door and waited for rescue. City firefighters came with a ladder and he climbed down.
But one elderly woman whose suite is right next to the flames had to wait for firefighters to contain the blaze before she could be rescued. She was administered oxygen while she waited.
Several residents were taken by stretcher to waiting ambulances to be treated for smoke inhalation.
The cause of the fire isn’t known yet.