South tower of Forest View Suites on Princeton Drive evacuated after Nov. 3 fire

Fire, which was contained to a single suite, occurred about six weeks after a fire in the north building resulted in it being deemed unsafe for occupancy

A fire on the seventh floor of the Forest View Suites south building on Princeton Drive resulted in the evacuation of tenants for a few hours Nov. 3, one day short of six weeks after a fire in the north building that resulted in it being declared unfit for occupancy.

Thompson RCMP and Thompson Fire & Emergency Services (TFES) were dispatched to the fire at about 9 p.m. Sunday.

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Aggressive firefighting prevented the fire from extending beyond the suite of origin,” said the Thompson Professional Firefighters Association on their Facebook page. “No injuries were reported. The cause of fire is under investigation.”

Thompson RCMP said the investigation is being assisted by Manitoba’s Office fo the Fire Commissioner.

The City of Thompson said shortly before 11 p.m. Nov. 3 that tenants were expected to be allowed to return to their units by 11:30 p.m., with the exception of those on the seventh floor, who might have to wait longer. The city also noted that only registered tenants would be able to return to their apartments.

A fire in the north building of Forest View Suites on Sept. 23 resulted in the evacuation of approximately 180 residents. After RCMP and the Office of the Fire commissioner completed their investigation into the cause of that fire, TFES deemed the building unsafe until critical repairs are completed and fire code violations addressed. The north tower was then turned back over to property management company Armour Management, which was responsible for securing the building and allowing tenants to retrieve their belongings. The building’s fire alarm system was inoperable at the time and TFES was alerted to the fire by phone calls from residents. Fire extinguishers were missing from their assigned locations and combustible materials were stored in the electrical room in violation of the fire code. Exit routes were not in good condition or clear from obstructions, fire separations in the building were not properly maintained and emergency lighting was broken or absent. Many exit signs were not illuminated and the elevators were out of order.

The company that owns Forest View Suites, better known by its former name of Princeton Towers, was placed into receivership this summer because it is unable to pay back money it borrowed to run the apartments.

Ernst & Young was appointed by the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench as the receiver of the assets of Polar Bear Properties Ltd. and Manitoba numbered company 5409676 Manitoba Ltd, which have owned the apartment buildings at 364 and 424 Princeton Drive since 2009, after a July 31 hearing.

Polar Bear Properties Ltd. owes nearly $25 million to creditors and said that as of July 31 they had about $65,000 in cash, $170,000 in accounts receivable, and $28.5 million in the form of the buildings and property, though the Manitoba Municipal Relations property assessment of the buildings for 2019 values the land at $812,500 and the buildings at $15,689,100.

Most of the money that Polar Bear Properties owes is to the Royal Bank of Canada – a total of $23,130,300. The City of Thompson is owed $1,364,424 in unpaid property taxes, $115,748 for water bills, and another $19,232 worth of unspecified debts. The owners also owe TFES $8,004 and Manitoba Hydro $193,739.

Polar Bear Properties acquired Princeton Towers in early 2009 from the Sheiner Group, a Montreal-based real estate investment firm, and Silver Management Group Ltd, an Ottawa-based residential and commercial property management company. Those companies had purchased the towers less than two years earlier, on April 2, 2007. 

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