Very unfortunate that these folks lost so much, but the new sprinkler law should mitigate these occurences in the future. Another idea? Ban smoking totally.


The massive fire witnesses say started on a fourth-floor balcony of a Millrise condo building, spread to the attic and left 300 people looking for a new place to live could have been quickly doused if current building regulations were in place a year earlier.

The 159-unit Millrise Drive building received its permits in 2008, but new safety regulations that require sprinklers in attics and on balconies did not take effect until May 2009.

One day after the three-alarm blaze, officials said the building

looks to be uninhabitable. Nevertheless, firefighters rescued animals stuck inside the building and escorted some residents back in to gather a few items from their condo units.

Kevin Griffiths, the City of Calgary's chief building official, said the building was in compliance with the Alberta building code of the day, but noted the code is now different.

"In the code today, the attic area, the roof space above the top floor would actually be protected with sprinklers, as well as areas such as balconies," said Griffiths.

Those changes could have made a big difference.

"We do know through the research that was undertaken by the City of Calgary and other parties, that having protection within the attic space has signifi cantly improved . . . the ability to prevent the spread of fire," said Griffiths.

Elena Golovanov, who lived a few doors down from where the fire began, said she wishes the additional sprinklers were in place. "Of course that would help," said Golovanov.

"They should have had sprinklers. It's difficult, really, to believe that in the city, fire can create such damage."

The company that built the condo, Medican, said it followed the code of the time.

All sprinklers in the building worked, said Bob Montgomery, manager of wellness, health and safety for Medican.

Asked if he regrets not adding the additional sprinklers in the attic and patios knowing the regulations would soon be upgraded, he said the company aimed to meet the legislation as it applied then. "At the time, you're obliged to make sure that the legislation is met. And that's appropriate. In terms of how much further you can go, how do you know?" he said.

"How do you know what the future holds? What we do is absolutely make sure that the legislation at the time is adhered to. That's our due diligence, that's our responsibility, and that's our goal."

Fire investigators still don't know how the fire started. Firefi ghters spent the first part of Friday putting out hot spots. In the afternoon, they retrieved pets -- ranging from cats and dogs to birds and a bearded dragon -- and reunited them with grateful owners.

An estimated 16 animals were rescued and no pets were believed to have died.

"We haven't had any fatalities at all, which is absolutely amazing," said Glen Porter of Calgary's animal and bylaw services.

Residents were also able to go back into their condos if their units were structurally sound, which typically meant people living on the third floor and lower. Clutching boxes of valuables -- usually clothes, documents and other essentials -- many came out smiling and relieved to learn that, though wet, many of their possession could be saved.

Kendra Pollock, who lived on the third floor, retrieved clothes, shoes and a computer she hoped wasn't too badly damaged. "There's a lot of black on the floors and ashes and it smells really bad. But my apartment is just really wet," said Pollock, who has lived there since December.

"I was just really worried that it was going to be really bad. So when I went in and it wasn't as bad, it's a big relief. But I feel really, really bad for the people who obviously lost everything. For me, I was lucky," she said.

Michelle Frid, one of the first people to move into the building, said it's been a challenging day. "For me, it hasn't really, truly settled in yet. It still doesn't feel real. I know walking through the building I was feeling a little shaky; it still felt like I was dreaming a little bit," she said. "It goes from you accept it and realize that you have to do what you need to do to keep going and then other times it's like, 'OK, I don't have a place to live right now, to call my own,'"

City officials believe as many as 300 people could be homeless.

Ken Hoff er, City of Calgary's Emergency Management Disaster Social Services, said 44 people were put up in hotels Thursday night and the rest stayed with friends or family.

"It's definitely a life-changing event for these folks. Some will have lost everything and it's a very, very difficult time. We're trying to provide the best services that we can," said Hoff er. He said the city is working with the province and the Red Cross to develop a relocation plan.

"We provide services for 72 hours. After that, then it really depends on the needs of the evacuees as well as the assistance we can get from our partners like the Red Cross or the province," said Hoff er.

Battalion chief Rob Horsburgh said the building is currently uninhabitable.

"We haven't determined that as of yet if it's going to have to be taken down completely ( or) partially. That will remain to be seen," said Horsburgh.