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Low-income B.C. seniors lose homes to Saturday fire

Their homes went down in flames on Vancouver Island on Saturday, just outside the international media spotlight.

Residents of Kiwanis Village, a housing complex for seniors, were forced to evacuate their homes after a devastating late-night fire in Duncan, B.C. The flames affected one building, or 28 of 90 units, in the four-building complex, leaving many low-income seniors without homes and most of their possessions.

"[The fire] was under control at about 2:30 in the morning," said Deputy Fire Chief Rob Laver, who received the emergency call at 11:53 p.m. Saturday evening. Forty-five firefighters in four engines promptly arrived on the scene; two sustained minor injuries. Although all the seniors escaped unharmed, they still face uncertainty in the long run.

"We have 27 residents out of the apartment complex long term," said Dan Derby, general manager of public safety for the Cowichan Region, "We're trying to develop, with B.C. housing and the Kiwanis Club, a long-term strategy for housing."

The seniors are currently being housed at two local hotels by the provincial emergency program.

"They were forced out with just the clothes on their back, and some didn't have any shoes or slippers, so we're dealing with even the most basic [items] -- right down to the toothbrush," said Dave Clark, president of the Duncan Kiwanis Club, to the CBC. Derby said that the fire department was back at the scene on Sunday, and were able to retrieve a few items, such as walkers and special medical equipment, from the lesser-damaged units.

The investigation to determine the cause of the fire begins today.

"I suspect that at the end of the week we'll have a definite answer," said Laver. "At this point if anybody wants to help they can contact the [Duncan] Kiwanis club." He added that what they really need are "27 rooms for the long term."

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