The apartment fire that killed three elderly women was likely an accident, police in North Vancouver said yesterday.

RCMP Const. Michael McLaughlin said arson was no longer suspected in Tuesday’s fire and that the investigation into the blaze would be turned over to the fire department.

Two of the women, Annetta Meester, 80, and Rita Phillips, 78, died from smoke inhalation in the first floor lobby, just metres from safety.

An autopsy on Ilse Willhelmine Dragossy, 84, has yet to be completed, McLaughlin said, but investigators suspect that she died of smoke inhalation as well.

Residents of the 22-suite apartment building met with the North Shore Emergency Management Office and were informed that it could be a year before the building is inhabitable again.

Starting today, residents will be escorted through the building to retrieve their valuables.

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