Police told drivers to avoid Vancouver's Gastown area Monday due to a structural, four-alarm fire that caused smoke to fill the sky.
The blaze broke out Monday (April 11) morning in a four-storey building on the 200 block of Abbott Street.
The fire was quickly upgraded from a third to a fourth alarm fire due to the complexity of the incident and its rapid growth, noted the City of Vancouver on behalf of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (VFRS) Monday evening.
The 200 block of Abbott includes several businesses such as Bruce Eyewear Inc, Lemongrass House, Nika Design, and The Flying Pig.
A single-residence-occupancy (SRO) called the Hotel Winters, which occupies the upper floors, was evacuated.
Hotel Winters employee Rhonda Bright spoke to Vancouver Is Awesome at the scene and said there were three employees in the office when they overheard someone yell, "fire."
"Because we just had a fire Friday night we didn't take it seriously," the staff member added before she was instructed not to speak with the media.
VFRS Fire Chief Karen Fry told V.I.A. at the scene that she's been informed that there was a jumper from one of the building's top floors who has been transported to hospital with injuries.
"We rescued a lot of individuals from the building from the top floor," she said. "No reported firefighter injuries at this time and two people have been transported to hospital."
An occupant that was rescued from the second floor was taken to hospital. Other residents were rescued with smoke inhalation but the fire chief was unaware if they were taken to hospital.
Thirteen fire trucks and "well over 60 firefighters" are currently at the scene fighting the blaze and involved in the rescue efforts, added Fry.
While flames reached several feet above the structure when the fire broke out, by just after 12:15 p.m. they were extinguished.
More from the Gastown fire. pic.twitter.com/fkFV5pwwoF— Brendan Kergin (@BKergin) April 11, 2022
VFRS is still determining where the fire started but Fry thinks the fire likely broke out on the third or fourth floor in the residential area of the building rather than the commercial stores below.
Hotel Winters resident Nicole told V.I.A. that a dog and a cat on the third floor did not make it out of the building. She lives on the third floor and opened her door after she smelled smoke; there were no alarms. When she did, a "gust of black smoke" came into her room and she yelled, "fire!"
Nicole was able to get her own pets, a cat and a rat, safely out of the building. "If we would have taken any longer, I don't know if we would have made it out," she said.
The area will be blocked off until further notice for fire scene investigation and safety assessments, notes the VFRS.