Five people were taken to the emergency room after a fire broke out in a halfway house in Vatnagarðar, Reykjavík. All available firefighters in the capital region were dispatched, RÚV reports.
Things went better than expected
The Capital Area Fire Brigade was dispatched earlier today after a large fire broke out at Vatnagarðar 18 in Reykjavík. According to Jóhann Viggó Jónsson, Duty Officer with the brigade, firefighters were able to enter the burning building and successfully evacuate five individuals; the situation had gone better than expected.
The fire reportedly began in a room at Betra líf, a halfway house situated within the building. While 31 individuals are registered as living in the halfway house, their presence in the building is sporadic. Fifteen people were at home when the fire broke out. In January, the media outlet Heimildin reported that Betra líf provided shelter for asylum seekers and individuals struggling with drug addictions.
Witnesses told RÚV that some of the residents required treatment from first responders. Arnar Gunnar Hjálmtýsson, Director of Betra Líf, has confirmed that the fire originated in a room rented by a single individual. At this time, it is unclear whether the person in question was present in the room when the fire started.
Neighbours sent tips to police, fire brigade
In an interview with Vísir, Hildur Elín Vignir, CEO of the Iðan education centre – located across the street from Vatnagarðar 18 – stated that she had been sitting in a meeting when the windows burst. Hildur and her colleagues then watched the fire spread at an alarming rate.
“At first we only saw black windows,” Hildur remarked. “Then we saw flames inside the windows, and then they exploded – and the fire spread at an alarming rate.”
Hildur and her colleagues had previously expressed their concerns about the lack of fire safety in the building, and a tip about the possible absence of fire protection was last reported to the fire brigade on January 12, as reported by Vísir.
Hildur further explained that she and her colleagues once witnessed a mannequin being set on fire and thrown out of the building’a window, which posed an obvious threat to the safety of Iðan’ clients and employees.