Although the Shelter blog hasn’t really been about news of this nature, this one hit close to home. Somewhere around 2:30 am early this morning (Jan 6), my partner and I were awakened by the phone ringing and someone knocking loudly at the front door simultaneously. What we found out shortly thereafter (from our neighbour on the phone and the Nelson Police at the door), was that there was a fire at the Kerr apartment building directly behind out house, and that we should get out of the house immediately. Fully awake now,this was confirmed by the flames we could see coming out the back of the building, visible from our windows as we hastily got kids up and jackets on. The rest of our night went quickly, first to the Capitol Theater as a sort of staging area, then to the Grand Hotel to get a few hours sleep. We were far more fortunate that the former tenants of the Kerr – a bit of sleep was all we lost. Chris Sheppard posted some more pics of the fire here. The Nelson Daily also posted some the fire department took from atop the boom here .
The Kerr building was built in 1911, and for years now has provided around 40 units with relatively affordable rents to people who in many cases couldn’t find or afford much else. By all accounts and judging by the exterior, it was pretty run down. A run down home, however, is better than no home at all, which sadly is the situation facing the former tenants, many of whom are low income.
There was no loss of human life that I’m aware of, but sadly, there were pets lost in the fire. I spoke with one gentleman who had left his two cats in the building, not knowing when he left that this time it wasn’t a false alarm, and unable to return once he realized otherwise.
There are many local agencies are stepping up to help, and there has been, an continues to be an outpouring of concern and support from many people, both in Nelson and beyond. The Kootenay Network has also set up a support group for the Kerr here. With a vacancy rate of around 1.5 %, finding long term affordable housing for the displaced residents will likely prove to be a more difficult problem to address. Best wishes to them.