On Monday morning, firefighters were back on the scene of the downtown fire that happened on Sunday. Hope Fire Department deputy chief Gord Glendinning (right) led firefighting efforts. (X. Y. Zeng photo)

Downtown fire burns apartments, businesses

Update: how to donate clothes, furniture

Firefighters fought a blaze at the corner of Fraser Avenue and Wallace Street on Sunday until the evening hours, only to return on Monday morning to continue work on the building that housed two businesses and three apartments.

“Tired? What is that?” said a firefighter.

Led by deputy fire chief Gord Glendinning, firefighters were clearing the rubble so that investigators and insurance staff could enter the location, and also to create access to salvageable items.

Glendinning led about 20 firefighters from the Hope Fire Department as well as Yale Fire Department from 4:30 p.m. to about 10 p.m. on Sunday. Security staff looked after the building overnight.

“It was quite a long haul,” said Glendinning on Monday at the scene. “Everybody worked well together. We did good because we kept it from going [east]. It could have taken out Cheyenne, it could have taken out the rest of the block.”

Glendinning added that once an investigation is complete, the building will likely to have to be torn down and rebuilt. He estimate that the loss will come to $500,000.

The three apartments on top suffered the most damage with a significant portion of the apartments’ side and roofs being torn apart to allow firefighters to fight the fire. Glendinning explained that there was a void below the roof and while firefighters were inside the building putting out the fire, the fire spread into the void, hence they had to remove the roof to fight the fire.

Currently, the cause of the fire is unknown. An investigation will take place and a final report will be published.

Businesses, residents suffer

Businesses below included Hope Outdoors and Jungle Juice where some items could be salvaged. At around 11 a.m. on Monday, Jungle Juice owners Mark and Naydeen Spencer were removing salvageable items into an SUV and a van. For both businesses, the future is clouded with many unknowns.

“I’m just taking it one day at a time, that’s all we can do right now,” said Naydeen, who added they will not reopen anytime soon. “Very sad, that’s just what it is. We put our whole heart and soul into this for the last six-and-a-half years, so it’s very — you know.

“We’re going to hope for the best dealing with insurance companies.”

Mark and Naydeen were both working in Jungle Juice when the fire started.

“I experienced it happening. It was awful,” said Mark.

Naydeen explained that they had a customer who noticed that there was smoke coming out. That customer ran out, noticed a fire and told everyone to get out. Naydeen called 911 and as she called, she could see smoke billowing out from the kitchen vent.

“We watched our dreams go up in flames,” said Naydeen. Jungle Juice is Naydeen’s first business.

For Lily Liu, who owns the building and runs Hope Outdoors, she has not thought about the future of the business or property. Speaking on Monday, she said that her inventory cannot be sold because of damage from water and foam used in firefighting.

“To relocate somewhere, we don’t know where to go,” she said, “and also we don’t have the money to re-buy all the stuff now and we don’t know what the insurance company is going to do to us. So far, everything is in the air.”

Just like the Spencers, Liu is also waiting for her insurer.

For resident Nelson Mariano, who lived in an apartment at the rear corner of the building, he might have lost hard-to-replace documents that could severely delay the Filipino man’s attempts to help his family immigrate to Canada. Mariano said he has not been able to access his apartment yet and is hoping that he can get his clothes and documents once he is allowed in. All he has now are the clothes he is wearing, he told The Standard from his workplace at Hope Sushi on Monday.

“The processing time from the government — it takes one year and eight months, plus now I’ve lost everything, so I’m back to zero. I don’t know where to start now. That’s the only thing important to me. The materials, the stuff, the appliances, I can buy them,” said Mariano.

Mariano is staying with his friend who had an extra room, although he knows that he will eventually have to find his own place.

Community steps up

Members of the community have stepped up to help people who have lost their homes. Multiple GoFundMe campaigns have popped up in the 24 hours since the fire. One of them was specifically created to support Mariano, created by Ayelen Dean of Sunshine Valley.

Dean explained that she goes to Hope Sushi once a week and got to know Mariano there. Dean said her family went to eat at Hope Sushi on Sunday, where Mariano greeted them. Suddenly, he left the restaurant because he received news of the fire.

“We felt so bad. He didn’t have time to get anything,” said Dean. “He was actually more worried about his documents more than anything because in the past four years he’s been trying to bring his family home.”

Dean wants to raise $1,500 to help Mariano replace belongings and fees to get his documents back. She said she and her husband will match all donations up to $1,500.

Hope residents Diane Trepanier and Erinn Andrews are also collecting items for the fire victims. Trepanier is collecting items of immediate necessity such as clothing and toiletries while Andrews is collecting furniture, household appliances and bedding, for when the victims rebuild their lives.

Trepanier and Andrews have done this before in the previous fire which affected two businesses, Canyon Carpets and Jay’s Appliances, and three apartments. “Except this time it’s with more women, last time it was basically all men,” Trepanier added.

Trepanier said fire victims need clothing immediately because they only have the clothes they were wearing at the time of the fire. Four victims have already reached out to her as of Monday for clothing.

Trepanier worries for the fire victims’ chances of finding housing, noting that rentals are “rare.”

Trepanier said donors can find her by searching her name on Facebook or through a Facebook group called “Sharing n Caring, Hope B.C.”

 

Jungle Juice owner Mark Spencer (left) heads back into the store to retrieve items on Monday morning. (X. Y. Zeng photo)