Fire destroys historic apartment building

(Updated) A century-old apartment building on Bold St was destroyed by fire last night. Firefighters were called at 8 pm, and they were still here most of the day putting out hot spots, which are still smoking 24 hours later.It’s not certain how many people lived in the 17 units — estimates range from 32 to 38, a lot of them students. Everyone is accounted for and OK. And while the loss of the beautiful 100 year old building is tragic for the Durand neighbourhood, the loss of pets is the biggest heartbreak for the tenants. While the fire raged, Pasadena apartment tenant Karen Adams was at work around the corner at La Piazza Allegra. A neighbour came in to tell her she saw smoke coming from Adams’ apartment as she fled. Adams has only had one thought ever since: “My cat. My cat’s in there and I don’t know if he’s OK. Some people say maybe he got away but I don’t know. Our windows were intact so I don’t know how he would have gotten out. And then there was that smoke coming out of my apartment.”She and her husband lived on the main floor, just above the boiler room. Dave Christopher of Hamilton Fire says that’s where fire crews first encountered the blaze. “This is an old building so it has voids in the walls. Fire worked its way up to the third floor, so crews are working there as well. They spent over an hour tearing down ceilings to fight the fire. At that point it became untenable because of danger of the roof collapsing, so we pulled the crews out and it became an exterior firefighting operation.”Lauren Smith has friends who lived in a basement unit. “He texted me and said my whole life is going up in flames right now.”“He was holding a glass of water at the time and he walked out with that, that’s all he’s got.”The Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause, but tenants say there have been escalating problems with the boiler. Adams says “I’ve seen firefighters at least five times in the past year checking out that boiler room because the alarm’s always going off.”There was a sprinkler system in the basement, and fire officials say there’s no sign of negligent fire safety. The Pasadena was one of Hamilton’s first apartment complexes, and it’s a heritage building. That means as soon as the building is safe, a structural engineer with heritage experience will look through to see what elements can be saved. Local councillor Jason Farr wants to avoid tearing it down. “We’re very hopeful we can maintain as much heritage as possible. The last thing we want to contemplate is the demolition.”Residents called it a beautiful building, with hardwood, exposed brick, large rooms, and long halls. The Canadian Red Cross is accepting cash donations, while Piazza Allegra is looking to start a trust fund.

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