Smoking in bed caused blaze at former motel, says Charlottetown fire inspector

·2 min read

A fire at a former motel in Charlottetown on Sunday was caused by smoking in bed, the city's fire inspector has concluded.

A man who fell asleep on a mattress in one of the apartment units remains in hospital with injuries caused by burns.

"Having a smoke, he fell asleep at that time, and the cigarette basically got into the pillows, into the combustible materials," said Winston Bryan, Charlottetown fire inspector. "Slow burn in the early stages, until it gained enough oxygen that it needed to spread within the mattress and into the walls of the unit."

The man got out of the lower-level apartment on his own, according to Bryan. His walker was left standing outside the building Sunday as Charlottetown fire crews brought the fire under control.

A smoke detector that had been installed in the unit was not connected — and that's a concern to fire officials.

"It was disconnected at the time," said Bryan. "If that was hooked up, he would have had early detection and [that] would have woken him up in the early stages of the fire.

"We try to educate our community ... smoke alarms, they do save lives."

Smoke barrier doors get credit

Bryan also said the building was inspected recently — and all the rooms had smoke detectors. Fire crews evacuated about 30 people from one of the three wings of the building at 20 Lower Malpeque Road after receiving the call shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday. Two people were treated and released from hospital for smoke inhalation.

Travis Kingdon/CBC
Travis Kingdon/CBC

The fire inspector credited the smoke-tight doors in the former hotel with preventing more extensive damage.

That kind of door shuts automatically whenever a person leaves his or her room, setting up a barrier that slows the spread of smoke and flame.

Previous call for same unit

Bryan said fire crews were called to the same unit in the building last month to respond to a complaint that someone had broken in and tried to set fire to it.

Empire Developments, based in Borden-Carleton, purchased the building last year. The former hotel now rents its 68 rooms on a monthly basis.

The building is fully occupied, including 10 units that are leased by the province for use as transitional housing, according the company.

Renovations are in progress to add kitchenettes to all rooms in the building. About half of those projects are complete.

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