Over a dozen Whistlerites have been displaced after a fire destroyed a home on Panorama Ridge in Whistler's Brio neighbourhood on Friday afternoon, Feb. 9.
According to Whistler Fire Rescue's Deputy Fire Chief Chris Nelson, the fire originated in the upper unit of the home, where the homeowners, a couple, lived with their three children. The homeowner was home at the time of the fire, though no one was injured.
The family lost everything, while the two couples who lived in the middle unit and four tenants who lived in the basement unit were all forced out of their homes, according to one of the basement tenants.
Though he's "not 100-per-cent sure," Nelson said the fire was likely caused by the dryer in the family's laundry room.
"All indications show the majority of the fire was there. The owner did say that there was some noise from the dryer, and saw the flames and then he got the people out. He alerted everybody to the house fire."
The fire broke out shortly before noon, while Whistler Fire Rescue crews stayed on scene until approximately 4:30 p.m., when they were confident the fire was out, Nelson said.
Alex West, who lived in the home's basement suite, said she first learned about the fire through an email from her landlord while she was at work in the village.
By the time she and her housemates arrived at their home, "you couldn't get up to the house, the street was all blocked off... We all went to the house and basically stood there and watched it burn down," she recalled.
Luckily, firefighters were able to enter the lower unit to salvage a few important items, like laptops, passports and snowboards.
"The two lower floors are pretty clear — they're structurally intact — a lot of water damage, obviously, from the water being thrown above the upper floor units," Nelson explained.
The same can't be said for the decimated upper levels of the home.
"They're gone," Nelson explained. "There's a lot of fire damage. The fire burnt extremely hot. So much that I've never seen glass melt, (and) it got so hot the glass melted... The fire was very rapid, because the building is made out of wood — wood siding, and I would think a fair amount of wood inside the building. It had vaulted ceilings, so it had a lot of fuel, a lot of air, to grow."
The building's location also provided some logistical challenges for fire crews, Nelson said.
"There were multiple covered steps to get up to the property and then the house was surrounded by, I would say, a metre-and-a-half of snow... so access was difficult," he explained.
Despite the tragic outcome, West said she and her housemates have been overwhelmed by the community's generosity following the blaze. While two of her housemates are still seeking long-term accommodation, they've all been set up with outerwear and other essentials. The basement tenants are now just on the lookout out for a few pieces of ski and snowboard gear — mainly boots.
"If there's any place for your house to go down in flames, it's Whistler, because everyone has just been so incredible. We can't believe the generosity of the community, so that's definitely helped us a lot. We've got some great people supporting us and helping us out."