Cause, origin of Sonora Complex fire determined
After examining the incident scene, reviewing evidence of photos and videos submitted by the public and conducting extensive interviews with tenants, neighbours and eyewitnesses, investigators have identified the cause and origin of a massive structural fire that destroyed a 32-unit apartment building in Stony Plain on Thurs., May 9.
The suspected cause of the fire, which started at approximately 6:30 p.m., is smoking material that was improperly disposed of on a balcony of one of the apartment units on the second-level. Damages are expected to exceed $4 million.
The investigation started on Friday morning and wrapped up late-Saturday evening.
Accompanied by representatives from the building's management company, tenants were able to return to their units for the first time on Saturday, spending 15 minutes to salvage what they could from the little that remained. Fire investigators retrieved some items from units that were unsafe for residents to enter.
Residents within the Tri-Municipal Region responded quickly and generously to help those affected by the incident. In fact, so many items were dropped off at the temporary donation centre – the local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion – that the most-pressing needs were met in less than 12 hours. Donations, which continued to pour in until mid-Saturday afternoon, filled a 50-foot semi-trailer, four pickup trucks, a utility trailer, a commercial van and several cars.
For nearly three hours on Saturday morning, about 20 Town staff and volunteers moved the donated items from the drop-off base (Royal Canadian Legion in Stony Plain) to a temporary holding spot. The items will be sorted and a plan for how they will be best distributed will be developed this week.
All victims have been notified of the next steps and where they need to be, starting Monday, to receive assistance. Seven members of the Alberta Red Cross Personal Disaster Team (PDT) will be in town until Monday morning, working with victims and linking them local businesses and community organizations to ensure their basic and urgent needs are attended to. Following Red Cross workers' departure, Stony Plain and District Victims Services – which has also been working with residents since they were evacuated – will take over. The Edmonton Emergency Relief Services Society is also helping those who were hit the hardest by this fire.
At this time, physical donations will no longer be accepted, as more than enough items have been obtained; however, many of the now-homeless families will require urgent assistance for longer-term needs, and assessments are being completed to identify those needs.
Monetary donations to the "Sonora Fire Victims' Trust Fund" are accepted at any ATB Financial Branch in Alberta or by front reception at Stony Plain Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), located on the 2nd Floor of the Town Office (4905 – 51 Ave.) in Stony Plain, during regular office hours (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday - excluding holidays). Please make cheques payable to “Sonora Fire Victims” (please note that no income tax receipt will be provided). Alternatively, donations can be made to Alberta Red Cross at 780.423.2680.
Investigators will release the building back to the owner(s) - Weidner Investment Services - shortly.
About the Fire
The early-evening fire displaced 64 residents and at least five pets. One person and several pets were rescued. Although no human injuries or fatalities were reported, six pets - four cats and two dogs - lost their lives in the blaze. Approximately 60 firefighters from the Town of Stony Plain, the City of Spruce Grove and Parkland County battled the fire for several hours.
Crews were dispatched to Sonora Apartments, located at 4501 Golf Course Rd., at approximately 6:45 p.m. One of the two three-story, multi-unit buildings was on fire. When firefighters arrived, the blaze was rapidly spreading eastward, due to high winds. Within minutes, the fire had consumed much of the building and was not under-control until after 9:30 p.m..
Residents from both buildings were evacuated, and Golf Course Rd. was closed in both directions for more than four hours. Residents from Building ‘A’ were allowed to return home later in the evening, while those from Building ‘B’ – the complex that burned – were left homeless. A reception centre was set up at the nearby public golf course clubhouse for approximately 20 people, where they were fed, attended to and registered with Stony Plain and District Victim Services. Lodging at local hotels was arranged for these residents; others stayed with family or friends.