For Metro Vancouver

The East Broadway apartment building damaged in Thursday’s fire.

A fire at an East Vancouver apartment building that left one person in serious condition and 70 others homeless was likely started by a cigarette, according to firefighters.
“It started as a mattress fire,” Capt. Gabe Roder said. “It was cigarette-related.”

The building’s tenants — many of whom are elderly, uninsured and have medical conditions — will not be allowed to return to their homes for at least two weeks.

The City of Vancouver is paying for them to stay in hotels for three days.

Firefighters reported two fire alarms went off on Thursday at approximately 2:30 a.m. as fire ripped through a north-facing suite on the fourth floor.

Elie Arshak, a retired computer programmer, has lived in the apartment for nine years.

“We heard the alarms, and then we all had to evacuate,” he said. “The smoke was very thick and it was hard to breathe.”

“There’s heavy smoke damage on the fourth floor, and the lower floors have suffered extensive water damage,” said Verne Dion, principal of Barclay Restorations.

Lila moved into the building last month after her last residence in New Westminster also had a fire.

“This is my second fire in the last six months,” she said.