Provincial fire marshall completes investigation into downtown Windsor highrise fire, says mayor

The provincial fire marshal has completed an investigation into the cause of a Windsor highrise fire which left hundreds of residents and commercial tenants without a roof over their heads.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens used a Friday media conference to inform the public about the conclusion of the investigation into the Westcourt Place parking garage fire, saying the Office of the Fire Marshal will publish the investigation's findings in a final report "in due course."

Windsor fire chief Stephen Laforet said the time it takes to publish the report depends on "the complexity of the case," adding he hasn't "spoken directly" with the investigator.

"There's no set timeline," he said. "It really depends on what they've discovered."

Laforet previously said it could take several weeks before a report is published.

Control of building returned to owner

In the meantime, Dilkens said the building's 166 residential units and approximately 30 commercial units remain closed to more than 200 residents who call Westcourt Place home. 

"There is no heat, no electricity, no water, the elevators do not work and there are no working fire alarms," he said. 

Dilkens added "control of the building" has been turned over to Westcourt Place's owner and their insurance company. 

Dale Molnar/CBC

"Now that the building has been released, requests for access to the building cannot come through the fire department of the City of Windsor," he said. "They are managed entirely by the owners and the property manager of Westcourt Place and their insurer."

Additionally, Dilkens said a generator "has been sourced" and is in Windsor.

"However, there are a number of steps that need to happen in order to safely open the building," said Dilkens.

Building owner offering motel accommodations to displaced residents

While residents are still prohibited from entering the building without permission, Westcourt Place's owner has offered to provide motel accommodations to the approximately 35 residents and their pets who were previously relying on the WFCU Centre for shelter.

"As a result, the Red Cross, which has been leading the temporary emergency shelter at the WFCU Centre has closed the operation down," Dilkens said. "So effective immediately, normal activities will resume at the WFCU Centre."

Building repairs are expected to continue "through the weekend and possibly into next week," according to Dilkens. 

"We have been advised that the number one priority of the building owner is to get the building re-energized and get the tenants back in the building as soon as possible," he said. 

The city is keeping track of all costs related to the building fire.

"We would certainly endeavour to try and recoup all of the costs that we're incurring as a result of this event from likely the insurer of the building," Dilkens said.

'Business as usual' for Provincial Offences court

In addition to the residents and commercial tenants who have been displaced, staff with the Windsor-Essex region Provincial Offences court have been relocated to temporary offices in city hall. 

Dale Molnar/CBC

According to Dana Paladino, the City of Windsor's deputy solicitor, anyone scheduled to appear in court will be able to visit the Provincial Offences court's temporary location.

"We are running a little slower — but other than that, it's business as usual," she said. 

Difficult to assess financial burden, says commercial tenant

Paul Esco, a criminal lawyer and one of Westcourt Place's commercial tenants, said it was difficult to estimate the financial strain caused by his business's temporary displacement. 

"I'm lost without having an office at the moment," he said. "I feel like I'm homeless. I'm walking around at lunchtime. I don't have any computers, I have to relocate."

Dale Molnar/CBC

Esco said he's considering contacting Strosberg Sasso Sutts — the Windsor law firm planning on filing a class action lawsuit on behalf of residents and tenants displaced by the Westcourt Place fire.

"I do know the lawyers involved, so I will contact them and see what's involved," he said. 

Dale Molnar/CBC

Harvey Strosberg, a senior partner at Strosberg Sasso Sutts, said his firm is seeking monetary compensation and plans on filing the suit Monday.

"All the commercial tenants are losing — by the hour — a lot of money," said Strosberg.