Town of Stony Plain Addresses Wednesday Fire

Town Manager Tom Goulden (centre) and Corporate Communications Officer Stephanie Barsby Boivert (left). (One News)

Investigation ongoing after blaze destroys townhouses in stalled development.

UPDATE June 22nd, 2018- The Town of Stony Plain held a press conference this morning regarding the ongoing investigation into the Sommerville Springs fire on Wednesday night.  The Stony Plain RCMP have brought in a private investigator to determine the cause of the blaze, while the Stony Plain Fire Department continues to support the RCMP in the investigation.

Town Manager Tom Goulden also shared some thoughts on the development site as a whole, which was been a struggle for the town since 2016 due to infrastructure and building concerns.  Since early 2016, a stop work order was issued while there's currently a matter before the courts which could see the land change ownership this summer.

"The Town has grown increasingly frustrated of those associated with this development.  What began as an interesting project slowly became a site that challenged our organization and our community," said Goulden.  "Deficiencies in infrastructure and building construction required the Town to stop the project through our contractual legal authorities.  Further, portions of the land ended up in a judicial sales process which is now only being resolved."

Goulden adds the site continues to be a challenge legally, visually and from a safety perspective but hopes with the potential change in ownership, the Town will have a better partner to work with in developing the area.

The investigation is ongoing and more information will be released when it becomes available.  A full video of this morning's press conference can be found here.

-TS

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UPDATE June 21st, 2018- The Town of Stony Plain has released a statement regarding the Somerville fire.  The blaze is officially under investigation while Town Manager Tom Goulden also was quoted as follows:

"The Town has been frustrated with the development and the developers of this site.  Our efforts to mitigate risk and work through the court system to resolve the problems with this area are still ongoing.  This situation just adds to the list of grievances we have.  We commend the efforts of our Fire Department, protecting their own lives and surrounding buildings was the right call under the circumstances."

More details when available.

-TS
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At 11:33 p.m. last night, the Stony Plain Fire Services received reports of a structure fire in the Sommerville Springs subdivision development and, upon arrival at the scene, found multiple structures already engulfed in flames.  By the time the fire was considered under control at 12:45 a.m. sixteen townhouses had been completely destroyed while fourteen others were damaged.

"This subdivision has some challenges- there's limited access, there's no water supply, and just a huge fire load- so we immediately went defensive strategy," says Stony Plain Fire Chief Trevor Mistal.  "Our goal was to try to protect exposures and keep it from spreading to the surrounding neighbourhoods."

Due to the various states of construction in the stalled development, the fire was able to travel quickly without many barriers protecting the townhouses- some of which were still just wooden frames.  The Spruce Grove and Parkland County services were also called in for mutual aid, as the lack of water infrastructure in the area meant pumper trucks had to be ferried to and from the area to fight the fire.

"The buildings weren't occupied and all in various stages of construction.  Some were sided with windows and doors, a couple of them had drywall on the inside, but the bulk of them were just framed," elaborates Mistal.  "Once the fire got in, there was nothing to stop it.  It just took right off."

Mistal also notes the weather conditions were favourable for the Tri-Region firefighters, as the wind wasn't pushing the flames towards surrounding areas.  As a precaution, crews were sent on patrol in search of other fires which may have been caused by blowing embers and ash.

As of this morning, crews were still on scene putting out various hot spots in the area.  Once the area is deemed totally safe, an investigation is likely to begin.

"This fire would be considered suspicious at this time," Mistal tells One News. 

"We'll commence an investigation when it's safe to do so.  We'll be working with the RCMP to come up with the cause and the origin of this fire."

-TS

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