Sunalta camp fire damages mural, residents voice concerns


Residents living in the southwestern community of Sunalta have been busy cleaning up after a camp fire damaged a mural and the outdoor garden next door.

The blaze, started by a small group of vulnerable Calgarians trying to warm up, spread to the Sunalta Wildflower Garden on November 10. The mural, the garage it was painted on, a nearby bench, and a storage bin were all damaged by the flames.

Jordan Hamilton, who lives nearby, saw the fire from his room around 12:30 am.

“We had to call 911 and we checked. It was shocking to see the amount of smoke hitting the community, ”he said.

“It’s never safe for people to sleep outside – not only will they hurt themselves, but they won’t get the help they deserve – so I encourage everyone, if they see someone sleeping outside, connecting them to social services. ”

Local artist Sarah Slaughter, who painted the mural, says it took hours to clean up the mess from the wall, but inevitably the room will have to be repainted next spring.

The mural was inspired by the area where Sunalta was built in the early 1900s and this history of its town planning.

“My initial reaction was just a shock, you go ‘oh no’ and there are a lot of people in the community contributing to this space so I found it heartbreaking,” Slaughter said.

“It’s a good reminder now of the importance of resources for the vulnerable and the homeless. “

The news is of particular concern to the Sunalta Community Association.

Executive Director Jenn Balderston says the gathering space is enjoyed by many neighbors on a daily basis.

“The fire at our Wildflower Community Garden Camp was a terrible accident that rocked our community as we mourn our beloved mural and (the) damage to our community garden,” she said.

“There was such a surge of support from residents who volunteered and from several city departments who offered to help. “

Balderston added that people passing through Sunalta are struggling financially and the community is working closely with various City of Calgary resources and nonprofit agencies to support them.

“We are extremely grateful to everyone who offered to lend a helping hand last week and into the future as we continue to navigate the complex social issues facing our community and our city,” he said. she declared.

In a statement to CTV News, the City of Calgary confirmed that Calgary police and the camp crew responded to the blaze on November 10.

“Procedures were followed and on that day it was determined that City of Calgary contractors would be advised to clean up the burnt out camp accordingly,” the statement said.

“It appears that there was an unfortunate administrative error on the part of our subcontractors which caused the cleaning crew not to show up on time as they went to an incorrect location and believed the job was finished. “

The city adds that it is following up with its contractor and continues to tackle the problem.


In a statement to CTV News, Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott says he feels for the Sunalta Community Association as well as its residents, adding that he is committed to working with city departments and community partners to provide support.

“It was a very unfortunate accident and underscores the long-standing need for an expanded network of care for people with homelessness and other vulnerabilities,” Walcott said.

“The Sunalta community association, residents and municipal services were responsive for the cleanup and follow-up after the event. The Ward 8 office has been in daily contact with the Sunalta community association and municipal service partners, and is working to provide improved coordinated responses to prevent something like this from happening again.

Shaundra Bruvall, communications manager at Alpha House, explains that the nonprofit camp team is working on quick housing initiatives to help Calgarians sleeping rough.

She says camps are appearing more frequently due to colder temperatures and the COVID-19 pandemic which has limited space in shelters.

“We try to reduce travel to the camps as much as possible, as this makes it easier for our team to connect with people on a regular basis and to check in, to do welfare checks, to provide services and we encourage everyone if they see a camp to call our team, ”said Bruvall.

“We are doing our best to get people into the shelter where possible so that they are maybe a little bit protected from some of these more extreme days when we see exposure to the elements as a bigger problem. important.”

Bruvall adds that Alpha House is also in the process of collecting winter jackets and warm clothing right now so its outreach teams can meet the basic needs of people living outside.

The Alpha House Camp team can be reached at 403-805-7388.

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