Fire in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside displaces 39 residents

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Crews attended two fires in the Downtown Eastside Friday afternoon. (Shawn Foss/CBC - image credit)
Crews attended two fires in the Downtown Eastside Friday afternoon. (Shawn Foss/CBC - image credit)

Vancouver Fire and Rescue says 39 people have been displaced from their homes by a building fire in Chinatown — one of two fires in the Downtown Eastside Friday afternoon.

The fire started around noon and was accompanied by reports of explosions.

Acting Assistant Fire Chief Dan Nichols said the fire at 218 Keefer St., just off Main, was in a building with three storeys of apartments on top of a restaurant.

He said it appeared to have started as a grease fire in one of the apartments before spreading into an attic area, keeping firefighters busy tracking down hot spots within the structure.

"Being such an old building, there's lots of void spots," Nichols said. "And you can get some fire travel in those void spots. So, [we] chased it a little bit."

Nichols said all the building's occupants are safe, but 39 people are out of their homes and have been placed in social housing by Vancouver Emergency Support Services.

The second fire was near Hastings and Carrall. Firefighters said the building was vacant, and no one was hurt.

Fires have been a major concern in the Downtown Eastside in recent months.

A fire at a small storefront church during the summer is now being investigated as arson.

The fire chief ordered a large collection of tents along East Hastings to be dismantled over fire safety issues, but that is also leading to further displacement of residents.