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Mattress blaze caused evacuation

Feb 03 2012

A middle-age woman who had been smoking in bed was at the centre of a fire that broke out in a 26-unit apartment building in Victoria.

Smoke from a burning mattress spread through the Medewiwin complex at 360 Gorge Rd. East about 9: 15 p.m Wednesday.

Victoria Fire Department, which had responded to the report of alarm bells ringing followed by a 911 call, attended to find the first floor of the building full of smoke. Tenants were moved out and westbound traffic on Gorge Road was diverted.

Firefighters found the mattress fire had been extinguished by the building's sprinkler system. Because of the sprinkler, fire damage was limited to the ground-floor suite bedroom where it started.

The sprinkler likely saved lives and property, said Victoria Fire platoon Capt. Dave Bicknell.

"Sprinkler systems are such great things - lives have been saved by them and we're not risking our lives going into hot spots."

The mattress was destroyed, there was scorching on the wall above the bed and there is significant water damage in the apartment suite, Bicknell said. All residents were able to return to their suites except the resident of the one where the fire occurred.

Smoking in bed is rarely a cause of fires these days, Bicknell said. It was more common in the 1950s through 1980s, he said. "I started here in 1987 and it was fairly common then," Bicknell said. "We don't have very many incidents like that now."

B.C. Ambulance attended and treated several residents at the scene for smoke inhalation, according to Bicknell.

A B.C. Transit bus was used to provide temporary shelter for residents while fire crews dealt with the incident. The Salvation Army's Beacon Bus provided support and refreshments.

The complex is a converted motel offering housing for people who were formerly homeless.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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