No major injuries after fire at Sleeping Cabin project

Firefighters with Kingston Fire and Rescue on site ensuring no hot spots remain after a fire broke out at one of the 15 cabins of the City’s Sleeping Cabin Project at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. The cabin destroyed in the fire, as well as the damages to the adjacent cabins, could be seen clearly once the fire was extinguished.
Photo by Cody Stafford-Arenburg/Kingstonist.

In the early morning hours, Kingston Fire and Rescue and Frontenac Paramedics received a call that would see both emergency services spring into action as fast as possible.

One of the 15 cabins lined up at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour (POH) as part of Kingston’s Sleeping Cabins project was on fire, and those with Fire and Rescue and their paramedic colleagues knew the situation could become dire quickly if it hadn’t already.

The local fire department was called to the Harbour at just after 2 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022. There, one of the cabins housing members of Kingston’s most vulnerable populations was ablaze, with mere feet separating it from the adjacent cabins where others slept.

“On arrival, fire crews observed heavy smoke conditions from the east side of the POH building. Upon further investigation, one of the sleeping cabins located at POH was determined to be fully engulfed in flames,” Kingston Fire and Rescue stated in an email to Kingstonist later in the day.

According to witnesses, the resident of the cabin where the fire broke out was inside the cabin at the time. That resident was able to get out of the cabin with the assistance of Kingston Fire and Rescue, as were the occupants of all 15 cabins. The fire department reported that, thankfully, only minor injuries were sustained, and those affected were able to be treated on scene by Frontenac Paramedics.

Unfortunately, the cabins themselves were not spared by the fire. The cabin where the fire started was “completely consumed” by the flames, and the fire spread to the two adjacent cabins, Kingston Fire and Rescue said. By 2:26 a.m., Kingston Police were dispatched to the scene to assist the firefighters. Kingston Fire and Rescue remained on scene for several hours after the fire was out, ensuring there were no hot spots to reignite the fire, and worked with police to investigate the cause.

The cabins, originally placed at the Harbour in early 2022, were approved by Kingston City Council in October of 2021 as a means to address the increasing number of unhoused people in the city. The project has been spearheaded by Our Livable Solutions, which works to ensure the cabins are filled by those who would not be able to find housing elsewhere, and who will be able to live together as a community – those living in the cabins share kitchen, social, and washroom facilities supplied to them by the City at the POH building adjacent to the cabins.

Since then, the cabins were moved to Centre 70 in the city’s west end for the summer season (when POH sees increased activity among the local and visiting boating communities), the City extended the initial Sleeping Cabins Pilot Project and approved the purchase of a further 10 cabins (five of which were added to the current cabin community, which has been moved back to POH for the fall and winter seasons). The City also approved a public consultation process to decide on the permanent location for the cabins in August.

According to the City’s Housing and Social Services Department on the same day the fire broke out, “The City of Kingston is working with the operator of the sleeping cabins, Our Livable Solutions, to ensure that any affected individuals are offered support and accommodation.” The Housing department did not comment further.

For her part, Wilson confirmed with Kingstonist that the fire did not result in any serious injuries, and said she herself had been on-site when the fire broke out. Wilson was unable to comment further, as she has been working with both Kingston Fire and Rescue and Kingston Police since the incident occurred, she said.

Kingston Police confirmed they are now the authority investigating the cause of the fire, the damages from which Kingston Fire and Rescue have estimated at $60,000. Const. Anthony Colangeli, Acting Media Relations Officer for Kingston Police, said no charges have been laid at this time. The investigation into the cause of the fire remains ongoing. Kingstonist will provide updated coverage as more information becomes available.

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