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Province, AHS to find long-term housing for seniors in Citadel fire

Evacuees will need longer-term accommodation, as units in the complex will not be available for two years or more during construction phase, said MLA Dale Nally.
0805 CitadeMewsFire 2426 km
A St. Albert firefighter examines a parking lot flooded by water used during the Citadel Mews West fire on May 7, 2021. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

The call came in at 11 p.m. Thursday. First responders to Citadel Mews complex were going to be fighting fire all night and they were going to be thirsty, so St. Albert-Morinville MLA Dale Nally and a few others delivered water.

“We had probably two truckloads of water that (were) delivered for the first responders. It was quite clear, the community spirit that rallied around the residents of this building. It really restores your faith in mankind when you see residents come together like that,” he said.

On May 6, a fire ravaged the Citadel Mews West seniors’ complex, causing extensive damage to the 110-unit assisted- and independent-living centre. Immediate needs for residents, such as temporary housing, has been taken care of, Nally said, but seniors are also going to need help with less immediate needs.

“People left without their driver's licences, without their bank cards, and so they're going to need help in making sure those needs are met,” he said.

Nally said the province has made support services available. The first call seniors should make is to Alberta 211 and the Alberta Support Centre: 1-877-644-9992.

“Whatever supports are needed, we're going to make sure that we do everything that we can to take care of these needs,” he said.

Longer-term accommodations are also eventually going to be needed, as the units in Citadel Mews West will not be available for two years or more during the construction phase, said Nally. Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the Department of Seniors Housing are working with the facility's operator to find longer-term arrangements.

“This is very close to home for me. It isn't just five blocks from my house, but I know many of those residents, including family members. And so I'll do whatever is required to make sure that these constituents are looked after and taken care of,” said Nally.

St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud said her office has received many requests from people wanting to assist and donate. She said she will be amplifying needs and donation requirements based on what the City of St. Albert requests. She will also amplify what local businesses offer residents affected by the fire.

“Lots of businesses are posting what they're able to do and I'm trying to share that,” she said.

Renaud will focus on ensuring everyone has a safe place to live, along with the care they need, as some of the long-term residents require sophisticated assistance.

“I have no doubt this will be difficult for people that have been in one long-term care facility – they're used to the staff, they're used to their home, they're used to their routines and this is huge upheaval in their lives. I have no doubt there are going to be significant challenges in the days ahead. So we will try to do everything we can to make sure people get settled and get the help they need,” she said.

St. Albert-Edmonton MP Michael Cooper said he can’t say enough about the fast response from first responders and firefighters in St. Albert and throughout the region, but it’s a terrible loss for seniors.

“When you look at our seniors and people who are living in long-term care facilities who have gone through, really, an incredibly difficult past 14 months and then for this to happen – it could not happen at a worse time. Not that there's ever a good time for something like this to happen. It's obviously a real loss,” he said.

In a statement, AHS said three people were taken to hospital from the fire: two were in serious but stable condition from smoke inhalation, and the third person suffered from minor lacerations and was then discharged.

Around 129 long-term care residents and 38 designated-living residents were evacuated from two of the three buildings in the complex, along with residents of the independent-living area, said AHS. Most evacuated residents were taken to the St. Albert Inn, while others went home to family.