HANNA PETERSEN PHOTO                                The Creekside Apartment building after the fire on Aug. 16.

HANNA PETERSEN PHOTO The Creekside Apartment building after the fire on Aug. 16.

Creekside residents future uncertain

“It’s along ways from over.”

According to Port Hardy Emergency Support Services, the Creekside Apartments fire has left roughly 65 people displaced from their homes.

The fire started the morning of Aug. 16 around 3:45 am on the fourth floor of the apartment building, which is located across from Port Hardy Secondary School.

Port Hardy RCMP is no longer investigating the cause of the fire. “We determined there appears to be no criminal element or intention involved,” said Staff Sgt. Wes Olsen, adding it appears the fire started accidentally due to a cooking mishap in one of the apartments.

“Once we finished our investigation and there was no need to hold the scene, we liaised with the insurance provider for the owner of the building and they are going to evaluate the building and determine whether or not it can be repaired,” said Olsen.

“We still do not have definitive answers to the state of the building,” said Norma Hemphill, director of Port Hardy’s Emergency Support Services (ESS). She added she thinks the fourth floor is “probably gone because of water damage.”

Hemphill also noted that “two families are staying in hotels, we have lots that are billeting, and we have some relying on the good graces of the Salvation Army.”

ESS was able to supply the residents with Emergency Management BC Referral Forms, which can be used for groceries and restaurants. However, only three restaurants in Port Hardy participate in the program, and those are the Market Street Cafe, Moe’s Restaurant, and Seto’s Wok and Grill.

“Initially we had 72 days, which is typical for Emergency Management BC, and then we got an extension until the first of September,” said Hemphill of the referral program, which also supports those who are hosting billets of displaced residents.

The Red Cross also gave everyone who registered a $250 debit card.

“To the businesses and people in the community who have stepped up, we really appreciate it – but it’s a long way from over,” Hemphill said, adding there is “very, very little to rent in town.”

ESS is a volunteer run organization with only five members, including Hemphill, and it doesn’t have the resources to accept donations.

“What we have done with any clothing donations that have come in, we have split them with the Salvation Army and the Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Store,” said Hemphill, who said she is worried people may be charged if they are not identifying themselves as Creekside residents.

Because of Emergency Management BC rules, ESS is not able to accept monetary donations and the Red Cross has not issued an official appeal on behalf of the residents.

“Until that is done we cannot even earmark money for the residents,” said Hemphill, adding “it’s tough, but our people are pretty resilient.”

Residents had been asked to get their things out the building while it is still secure, and have been asked to wear protective equipment while inside the building.

Anika Kelly, who owns Aries Security, and her staff have been helping residents get their things out. Kelly said that “some people have arrived with just totes and had nothing really to get their stuff out.”

She added she’s amazed after watching the community come together, noting, in particular, a story about a man who volunteered to drive a resident’s things to Port McNeill, all because that was the only place he could find storage.

“All people want is to lay their head on their own pillow at the end of the day,” said Kelly.

“We are just doing as much as we can to help,” said Hemphill, stating anyone who is interested in joining ESS should contact them.

The District of Port Hardy suggests anyone who is interested in joining ESS or wants more information should call the Director of Corporate Services Heather Nelson-Smith at 250-949-6665.