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Awaiting answers after Kelowna affordable housing evacuated

UBCO downtown construction causing ground shifting, safety concerns at low-income housing
Hadgraft Wilson Place in Kelowna. (Brittany Webster/Capital News)

Pathways Abilities Society Executive Director Charisse Daley said they are in it for the long haul when it comes to supporting the residents of Hadgraft Wilson Place.

The society received notice from the Kelowna Fire Department on March 29 that an evacuation would be ordered for 1360 Bertram Street. Residents received notice the following Sunday.

Pathways has put more than 80 tenants up at the Prestige and Ramada hotels and provided them with food vouchers. All tenants are still required to pay rent for the month of April.

“We hope to know more on Thursday, Friday,” Daley said. “That’s when we’ve committed to making sure everybody has an update.”

It was noted that Pathways has been bringing up safety concerns regarding the building for some time. Daley said they never expected to get to the point of needing to evacuate the building.

Kelowna Fire Chief Dwight Seymour said the decision to evacuate wasn’t made lightly.

Seymour said the city forwarded information to him last week from engineers with concerns about ground movement and its impacts on Hadgraft Wilson Place. The fire department did an assessment of the building and brought in their own engineering experts.

The fire department noted two things of major concern. One concern is that additional shifting of the building risks the integrity of safety features. Seymour gave the example of a shift causing a pipe to break and impacting the fire sprinkler system in the event of an emergency.

“There have been issues with doors being able to open and close. So, we want to make sure there wouldn’t be a shift and all of a sudden the resident, in the event of a fire or an emergency, can’t get out of their suite.” Seymour added it’s a problem in the event of a fire if the doors can’t close properly as smoke and fire can travel faster and allow less time for residents to evacuate.

Hadgraft Wilson Place started deteriorating as construction on the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO) downtown Kelowna campus caused significant ground shifting.

A controlled evacuation was ordered of the apartment building giving residents until 6 p.m. on April 2 to leave the property. Seymour said the decision was made out of an abundance of caution to avoid an emergency evacuation or even worse, a recovery scenario.

UBCO has said construction on the project has been voluntarily stopped.

Neither project manager UBC Properties Trust nor engineering consulting firm Aplin Martin has responded to Black Press requests for an interview.

READ MORE: ‘Make people accountable’: Evacuated Kelowna residents defeated by UBCO build

Brittany Webster

About the Author: Brittany Webster

A video journalist with Black Press Media. I recently made the exciting move from my radio anchor position at AM 1150 to this new venture.
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