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Port Coquitlam school fire believed to be 'human-caused': RCMP

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Months after an elementary school in Port Coquitlam was destroyed in a fire, Mounties say they believe the blaze was human-caused.

Coquitlam RCMP shared the update Friday, calling for culprits to come forward. The Oct. 14 fire at Hazel Trembath Elementary School had already been deemed suspicious by investigators shortly after it happened.

"At this time, we believe that the fire was human-caused and are asking those responsible or those individuals who may know who is responsible to contact the Coquitlam RCMP," Insp. Darren Carr said in a news release Friday.

"We understand that the loss of the school has had tremendous impact on the entire community and police continue to actively pursue this complex investigation."

Mounties were called to the fire on Confederation Drive at about 3:15 a.m. The school was fully engulfed by the time emergency crews arrived.

In the weeks that followed, parents, school district officials and teachers all spoke about the impact the fire had on the community.

Patricia Garland – the superintendent of School District 43, which serves the Tri-Cities and the villages of Anmore and Belcarra – called the fire "a tragic loss" for the district, but one that grew into "a heartwarming story" of the community coming together to support the school's students and staff. 

She said district maintenance staff worked "all day and all night" to prepare another facility to temporarily replace Hazel Trembath.

"In eight days flat, we turned our Winslow Resource Centre – which is a professional development centre – into an elementary school," Garland said, adding that other elementary schools in the district provided classroom furniture and school supplies to help with the transition.

Earlier this year, a petition was circulated online calling on the province to guarantee the school will be rebuilt, rather than moving children to another school. More than 2,500 people have signed that petition so far. 

"We need this school here," Kim O’Neill, whose daughter is in Grade 2, told CTV News in January. "This school was here for a reason. It was a need to the community way back when, and it is, if anything, more of a need to the community right now. So not rebuilding and dispersing our children to other elementary schools in the area is just not an option for us. It’s not what parents want."

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Ian Holliday and Martin MacMahon 

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