Kathy Michaels/Capital News Strata president of Water’s Edge George Mapson, holds a photo of the building ravaged by fire last weekend.

Water’s Edge residents now focus on moving forward

Kelowna residents must wait one to three years before they can return to their homes

George Mapson is currently switching back and forth between two stages of grief—there’s acceptance and there’s anger.

“I’m trying to focus on the acceptance,” said Mapson, the strata president for Water’s Edge, just five days after his home burned down.

“We, as a strata, have a new slogan—it’s ‘make every day better’ and that’s what we want to do for our strata members.”

Since fire engulfed his Truswell Road condo unit along with six others, acceptance has been manifesting itself in working around the clock to find clarity on what the days ahead hold for the men and women who were sent from their homes.

“We’re a unique community,” he said. “Of the 65 units, 90 per cent were occupied by seniors. We were a close knit family before, now we’re even closer.”

Within a day of the fire that left one-third of the six-storey building in cinders and the rest uninhabitable, they had a meeting at the Willow Park Church—a group he said has been tremendously supportive in the residents’ hour of need.

At that point it was just a matter of discussing what was to happen next, much of which being contingent on the Kelowna Fire Department returning posession of the building to the strata.

That happened Monday and right away Mapson and his fellow strata members started organizing the arrival of engineers, restoration companies, insurance adjusters and everyone who is going to be key to getting a grip on when and how the building can go back into use.

While there’s no firm details yet, it looks like residents of the building will have to find a new home for anywhere from one to three years.

“For some of us, that’s hard,” he said. “We have a 90 year old woman in our complex and she said, ‘I don’t have a lot of years to sort this out.’”

While only seven units burned down, the other 58 have suffered smoke and water damage. What looks fine one day takes a turn for the worse the next.

“Sprinklers went off throughout the building,” said Mapson, adding that mold is starting to form in all sorts of areas.

“Every residence in the building will be vacated.”

Knowing that the fate of the building is up in the air, finding temporary housing for the residents of the condo has emerged as a major concern. There were hundreds of emails following a call for help in the days after the fire. It was overwhelming to Mapson and a relative of one of the residents has connected them to a tech company—Happipad—that focuses on connecting long-term renters with developers and property managers. On Monday, a meeting has been organized to further make connections.

Over and over again, it’s community that has helped him get through the last week.

When there’s time, he also feels anger, which so many others affected by this fire have expressed.

Mapson has questions about why the building next door went up like a candle, why flames spread so fast and why firefighting efforts were seemingly hampered—something he’s heard echoed by official sources.

More resources were needed at the beginning of the blaze, which destroyed a building and displaced locals last weekend, said Kelowna Professional Fire Fighters Association president Mike Hill.

The City of Kelowna has 19 firefighters on duty at any given time, but the National Fire Protection Association standards say between 27 to 29 firefighters are required to fight a blaze the size of the building that was engulfed Saturday, said Hill.

“This was a large event and this is the kind of event we train and prepare for. The more assets we have on a big fire, the better,” said Hill. “But the strategic plan really looks at the bigger picture of what the community needs.”

Mapson also doubts the decision-making of city council granting the developer a variance on the distance between buildings.

A greater setback to the property line, he said, may have helped all involved.

That will be made clear in the days ahead, though.

For now he’s focusing on moving forward so he and the residents of the building—a family of sorts—can get back to enjoying their lives.

 

Warren Henderson/Capital News Smouldering aftermath of fire damage to Water’s Edge condo development.

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