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Public urged to stay away from burned Port Coquitlam elementary school, Mounties say

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Mounties in Port Coquitlam are urging the public to stay away from the scene of the suspicious fire that destroyed Hazel Trembath Elementary School Saturday.

Coquitlam RCMP warned in a statement Saturday evening that the fire has caused "potentially hazardous air quality" in the area, and that the hazard is expected to linger "for several days."

"We understand that students, staff, parents and neighbours may want to view the damage first-hand as they grieve the loss of the school," said Cpl. Alexa Hodgins in the statement.

"The smoke and air quality is unsafe and only officials with appropriate personal protective equipment should be near the scene."

Police also asked nearby residents to keep their windows and doors closed and "avoid going outside" to limit their exposure.

A crowd gathered throughout the day Saturday as smoke continued to rise from the charred remains of the school.

Police and firefighters were called to the scene on Confederation Drive around 3:15 a.m., and remained there throughout the day. Images captured before sunrise show almost the entire building engulfed in orange flames.

Students will not be returning to school at the site on Monday or any time in the near future.

School District 43, which operates schools in the Tri-Cities, Anmore and Belcarra, held a meeting for the Hazel Trembath community Saturday evening, at which officials shared plans to move classes to the Winslow Centre in the short term.

Preparations at the centre – a former school that has been used as a district facility in recent years – are underway, and the district said it's hopeful Hazel Trembath students will be able to attend school there by mid-week.

Mounties say the fire is suspicious.

They're asking anyone with information about it who hasn't already spoken to investigators to come forward.

Police are particularly interested in information about any suspicious activity that occurred between 9 p.m. Friday and 3:30 a.m. Saturday, as well as video of the school recorded during that period.

Anyone with information should call Coquitlam RCMP at 604-945-1550 and cite file number 2023-27725, police said. 

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