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Fire in Downtown New Westminster building to be demolished

A New Westminster firefighter makes notes at the scene of a small fire at one of the Front Street buildings left derelict by last October
A New Westminster firefighter makes notes at the scene of a small fire at one of the Front Street buildings left derelict by last October's big blaze.
— image credit: Mario Bartel/NewsLeader

New Westminster fire Investigators were sifting through the ashes to find out what started a blaze that shut down Front Street during the Tuesday morning rush hour.

A small fire broke out just before 5 a.m. in a building slated for demolition because of the damage it suffered in the big blaze that rocked Downtown New West last October.

Crews were able to put the small fire out quickly and nobody was found inside, said fire chief Tim Armstrong.

"It's too early to tell what the cause was," said Armstrong on Tuesday morning.

Two other buildings next to it were destroyed by fire Oct. 10. The debris from those buildings has been cleared. Although the structure that caught on fire Tuesday remained standing it suffered too much damage and will be demolished.

The length of time it's taken to clear the condemned building bothers Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, chair of the city's emergency advisory committee. He suggested the city needs to tighten up its after-fire requirements for structures that are left standing to prevent incidents like the one Tuesday.

"There's always a worry when these buildings stay up," said Puchmayr. "Obviously our concerns play out when there's a fire."

Puchmayr noted the building's electrical was shut off long ago. "It'll be interesting to know if it was a human cause that started that fire in there."

He said he kicked two people out of the building himself and called police on one of those occasions. Puchmayr said it was too easy to get into the site.

"It became a real magnet for people looking to help themselves with salvage," said Puchmayr. "What disappointed me when I was down there was the lack of security, not seeing any security whatsoever."

He said scavengers were hauling out contaminated stuff while the building's tenants weren't allowed in to collect their possessions.

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