At approximately 10:00am, Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority, emergency crews and RCMP responded to a fire at the Sun Life Financial building, 50th avenue Bonnyville.
Employees at the office and two people from the attached residential suite were safely evacuated. Brandon Roberts, an advisor at Sun Life Financial, says a town employee was the one who notified them of the blaze. “At about 10:00 am, the power went out. We didn’t think anything abnormal. We went down stairs to check the breaker.” Brandon says Sun Life Financial has three employees, including his mother, Sheila Alton, the owner. “We started smelling smoke and all of a sudden a Town of Bonnyville employee ran in and told us all to get out.”
There were two people occupying the back residential suite of the building at the time of the fire. Both people were evacuated, with one sent to the hospital in the ambulance for further assessment. Deputy Fire Chief, with the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority, Jay Melvin, says it is believed that the fire originated in the back bedroom of the residence, where one person was sleeping.
Due to the age and design of the building it made the fire more difficult to extinguish, says Melvin, “we’re having difficulties with the building and the additions. The way the building was made there is a double roof, where the fire was being trapped and the water was not getting through.” Crews had to allow the roof to burn off of the back addition, before they could attack the fire. “It’s a bit of a defensive operation, there’s no risk to human life inside, so we’re not going to put any risk to our fire fighters.”
The fire crews were keeping a close eye on neighbouring businesses, including Lakeland Variety, “we’ve been inside several times. Obviously, there’s some water damage. From the way Lakeland Variety was build, concrete, we’re quite confident there will be no damage to the building from the fire.”
Fire Chief, Brian McEvoy, says now that the fire is put out, crews are expected to work on the building throughout the day and into the night, “now the hard part begins. We’ll be out here for another four to six hours before we have this overhaul and it’s ready to turn back to the owner.” Chief McEvoy explains that an overhaul is a complete walk through of the building, “we go searching for any ember, any fire, any hot spots that may be in there. While we are doing that, we also do salvage. Where we start to salvage what is still savable.”
The building appears to be a complete tear down once crews are finished. Lakeland Connect will keep you posted as this develops and if a cause of the fire is determined.