Terrace Mayor Sean Bujtas and Terrace Fire Chief John Klie were at the Coachman Apartments building in the Northwest B.C. city to help residents on Boxing Day the night after water was shut off due to bursting water pipes from freeze and thaw conditions.
Bujtas, who lives nearby the Coachman building, credited the Kermode Friendship Society for making calls on behalf of tenants, since the landlord recently died leaving no building manager to handle the situation.
Bujtas and Klie went door to door in the building, offering support and directing residents to provincial Emergency Support Services (ESS), which is offering hotel rooms for residents for 72 hours while next steps are assessed.
Because of the landlord situation, a further problem arose that there was no access to abandoned rooms to shut water off.
“I reached out to the ministry of housing and probably within 10 minutes had a letter authorizing us to enter the manager’s office to acquire keys to enter these rooms and shut the water off on the 23rd,” said Bujtas.
“But as things continue to thaw more and more issues are happening — so we’re working on this. I literally broke into the managers’ office with another guy.”
Residents who chose to leave were directed to the fire hall and given information on how to check in to the hotel rooms.
“It’s just so that they know those supports are there and understand the condition that the building is in,” Bujtas said.
“We prefer people to leave for their own safety because we cut the water off in the building. This water issue has been for a few days. We had to enter some of the abandoned rooms to shut off the water.”
John Davis of the Terrace Fire Department reported in a memo there have been issues with pipes bursting at the Coachman Apartments since Dec. 23.
“We have assisted with shutting water off to the individual units, but as the ice melted, more leaks continued to pop up throughout the building,” Davis said.
“There is now massive water damage throughout the building and the water had to be shut off at the street to stop the leaks.”
The water affected the building’s electrical supply, so the fire alarm system was also affected.
City of Terrace spokesperson Tyler Clarke stressed the residents are being given the option to leave, countering rumours circulating online that tenants were being put out on the street with nowhere to go.
“People aren’t getting evicted or thrown out on the street. This is three days in a hotel because there’s massive water damage. It’s not like we’re condemning the building or anything.”
The mayor plans to reach out to the province again this week to see what more can be done.
“We’re doing everything we can to support the folks while their water is shut off and making sure that they’re safe,” he said.
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