Exclusive: New West fire probed as possible arson
The devastating fire that ripped through New Westminster earlier this month and destroyed nearly a dozen businesses is being investigated as a possible arson, according to court documents obtained exclusively by CTV News.
In the documents, New Westminster police indicate the suspected cause is “arson by negligence,” a Criminal Code offence that can carry a jail term of up to five years.
Section 436.1 of the Code defines the charge as “a marked departure from the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would use to prevent or control the spread of fires or to prevent explosion.”
The fire broke out the morning of Oct. 10 in the E.L. Lewis heritage building at 634 Columbia St., where a roofing crew had been working that week.
New Westminster Fire Chief Tim Strong said propane tanks were left on the roof and exploded during the fire, causing a hazard for firefighters rushing to contain the blaze.
Mayor Wayne Wright told CTV News if negligence contributed to the fire, someone should be held accountable.
“If it’s negligence, absolutely,” he said. “I’m a bit perturbed at having those propane tanks going off on the roof. I’m not sure they should have been there.”
“For that fire to rage like it did – once it got started, we just couldn’t’ stop it.”
Two weeks after the fire, authorities still haven’t revealed a cause. Investigators are using video and witness accounts to build their case.
The Lewis building and another heritage building were completely destroyed in the fire, while several nearby businesses suffered smoke damage.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Lisa Rossington