Fire tears through commercial building in downtown New Westminster
VANCOUVER -- Firefighters spent the morning of Victoria Day battling a serious blaze that tore through a commercial building in downtown New Westminster.
The fire erupted at around 3:16 a.m. at a building on Columbia Street that houses the Heritage Grill, Happy Buddha Tattoo and other businesses.
Chief Tim Armstrong of New Westminster Fire and Rescue Services said the flames spread quickly through the structure, which is at least 100 years old.
"Part of the problem with the age of these buildings is just they've been renovated over the years, a lot of void spaces," Armstrong said. "Fire travels pretty quickly through the building."
What started as a single-alarm blaze was soon upgraded to a three-alarm, with 40 firefighters on scene.
Crews managed to get the fire under control by around 6 a.m., but were still putting out hotspots hours later.
"Our biggest priority was to keep the adjacent building next door protected, which we've succeeded to do," Armstrong said.
Among the establishments destroyed in the blaze is Heritage Grill, a fixture in downtown New Westminster for the past 16 years.
"It’s a huge part of our community," one witness told CTV News. "I’ve been here for drag shows and poetry readings. It was such a unique space to be at and it’s gone, just like that.”
Jordan Howton is an apprentice at Happy Buddha Tattoo, and says he woke up to a message from his boss that the building was on fire.
"You can't really do much. You just hope it goes out," Howton said.
Authorities aren't yet sure what sparked the fire, or where it started. Crews could be seen hosing down flames on the second floor of the building.
The New Westminster Police Department said Columbia had to be shut down between 6th Street and 4th Street to make way for the firefighting effort. Authorities asked drivers to use an alternate route until it reopens.
Power was also turned off in the 400-500 block of Columbia and 400 block of Carnarvon Street, according to a tweet from the city.TransLink says Skytrain service through New Westminster was not affected.