Fire funds on the way

Demolition and salvage work continues on the site of the fire that leveled a low-rise Uptown apartment building on Ash Street at Fourth Avenue. - Grant Granger/NewsLeader
Demolition and salvage work continues on the site of the fire that leveled a low-rise Uptown apartment building on Ash Street at Fourth Avenue.
— image credit: Grant Granger/NewsLeader

Cash donated to support the victims of a fire that destroyed an Uptown New Westminster apartment building will be converted into groceries.

Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, chair of the city’s emergency advisory committee, said the fund received about $10,000.

It was set up after a blaze wiped out a complex on Ash Street at Fourth Avenue in the early morning hours of Jan. 31.

The fire left 36 people in 31 units looking for new homes with few, if any, possessions.

In the ensuing days, the public donated more than enough clothing and household goods to replace those lost in the fire.

Puchmayr said the money will be converted into supermarket gift certificates.

He is trying to convince one of the city’s chains to top up the $10,000 by about another third.

Fund administrators decided to divide the funds equally amongst the residents.

But giving cash to those on income assistance presented a problem.

The amount would have to be deducted from their monthly cheque.

So the administrators found an alternative.

“If we give them gift cards for food they would accept that,” said Puchmayr.

He expects fund administrator, Emilie Smith of St. Barnabas Anglican Church, can begin distributing the cards next week. Puchmayr noted they’ve been able to only get in touch with about half the residents.

Privacy concerns prevented the city from passing along all contact information.

Some money will be held back to pay for items such as denture replacements, said Puchmayr.

There has been criticism on social media from one former resident about how long it has taken to receive the funds.

Scott Brown stated in an email to the NewsLeader, “I don’t think that it’s right that it’s two months later and we are still waiting.”

Although he said he would contact the NewsLeader to elaborate, he did not before this edition’s deadline.

Puchmayr insisted the reason for the decision was based only on the effect it would have on those on income assistance.

When asked if there was a worry the cash would be used to purchase drugs or alcohol, Puchmayr said it wasn’t a consideration. “People can sell gift cards, too.”

He said anyone who can prove they were a resident of the building when it burned down should contact Smith at 604-526-6646.

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