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Fire officials "baffled" by rapid spread of blaze in Jyväskylä senior housing complex

Nearly 170 people, including residents of an eldercare unit, were evacuated. No serious injuries were reported. 

 Tulipalo kerrostalossa Palokan Ilona -seniorikohteessa Jyväskylässä 10. heinäkuuta.
The column of smoke from the fire could be seen dozens of kilometres away. Image: Timo Laulainen / Lehtikuva

Authorities are poised to launch an investigation into a large fire in the central Finnish city of Jyväskylä that began on Friday and spread to a second block of flats early Saturday.

Firefighters were still putting out small pockets of fire on Saturday. The site is some 4km north of the city centre.

Fire chief Pauli Nurminen told Yle that the fire apparently began on an upper balcony of one residential block in the evening, and later jumped to an adjoining building for reasons that remain unclear.

"We are baffled by the fire's rapid spread downward and sideways. That is rare," Nurminen said.

Police will begin a technical investigation on Sunday morning. The Safety Investigation Authority (Otkes) will decide on Monday whether to launch a probe of the fire.

Built in 2018

The Palokan Ilona complex is only two years old, having opened in the spring of 2018.

It includes three right-of-occupancy buildings that are home to some 200 people.

All are aged at least 55, and some are in their 90s, according to Maiju Luukkola, customer service director of Jaso, a right-of-occupancy association for older people that operates many of the flats. Others are owned by an apartment rental agency, Jyväskylän Vuokra-asunnot.

Article continues after photo

Tulipalo kerrostalossa Palokan Ilona -seniorikohteessa Jyväskylässä 10. heinäkuuta.
The fire apparently began on an upper balcony. Image: Timo Laulainen / Lehtikuva

The complex also includes an eldercare unit operated by private healthcare firm Mehiläinen.

The unit, which was damaged in the fire, housed more than 20 people over the age of 75, said Mehiläinen business unit director Niklas Härus. He said they have been moved to other Mehiläinen facilities in Jyväskylä and Laukaa.

Altogether 168 people were evacuated, a few of them suffering from smoke inhalation. No serious injuries were reported.

One of the three buildings on the site was largely unaffected, so residents will likely be able to return on Saturday, Nurminen said. It was unclear on Saturday if or when residents of the other blocks would be allowed to return home.

25 rescue units, army conscripts and Red Cross on the scene

At least 25 rescue squad units and a contingent of Finnish Defence Forces conscripts were called to assist at the scene. About 50 people from the Vapepa Voluntary Rescue Service also helped to battle the blaze, while Finnish Red Cross staff helped to relocate evacuated residents. They were initially taken to a nearby school.

Kerrostalopalo Jyväskylän Palokan kaupunginosassa, kartta
The fire began on Friday evening, about 4km north of Jyväskylä's city centre. Image: Leena Luotio / Yle

A column of thick smoke from the fire could be seen dozens of kilometres away.

Shortly after 11pm, the Emergency Response Centre urged all residents of the Palokka, Pappilanvuori, Ritoniemi and Heinälammi areas to remain indoors, close their windows and shut off ventilation systems due to potentially hazardous smoke. The warning was lifted at 3.30am.

Around 10pm Friday police asked the public to avoid the Ritopohjantie area, following that up with another at 4am saying that two other roads, Koivutie and Lukutie, remained closed.

Two summers ago, a shopping centre in the same neighbourhood was destroyed by fire.

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