A large fire has destroyed half a dozen businesses in New Westminster.
The flames broke out in a building near Columbia and Mackenzie Street around 4 a.m.
A bridal shop and Vietnamese restaurant were located in the building, with a number of other bridal shops nearby. There was also a shoe shop, which had been in the family for three generations.
The owner of Moody Beads, who has had the business for about five years, said she could do nothing but stand back and watch the flames destroy her livelihood.
“I don’t see how, if the fire’s in there, those buildings are 100 years old, plus some of them still have the foundation from the first fire, from a while ago, so you know, the fire that devastated New West, so some of them still have the remnants of that fire, and they go in flames again,” said owner Lynn Quesnel. “A lot of history just going right down right now.”
There were about 11 tenants in the building.
Some witnesses say there was a huge explosion after the fire started, around 5:30 a.m., causing the building to collapse. It’s believed the fire was only burning for 45 minutes before the structure collapsed.
It also appears the fire may have started on the upper floor of the building.
New Westminster fire chief confirmed to Global News that some work was being done on the roof of the building and that there were propane tanks on the roof as well.
There were no sprinklers in the building.
It is alleged cleaners were in the building around 12:30 last night and there was nothing amiss. Nobody was in the building at the time of the fire.
New Westminster mayor Wayne Wright told Global News he’s never dealt with a fire this big.
“This is my third fire in this city, but nothing of this magnitude,” says Wright.
He says they are having one-on-ones with the fire victims to figure out how to move forward.
The exact cause of fire is still under investigation.
Firefighters from Delta and Burnaby are helping the municipality to deal with the situation.
The building is still smoldering, and road closures will be in effect all day.
Front Street is currently closed east and westbound. Columbia Street is closed between 4th Street and 8th Street and 6th Street is closed from Carnarvon Street to Front Street.
Police say there will be no vehicle traffic or pedestrian traffic allowed in these areas.
The City of New Westminster’s Electrical Operations department has cut the power for the circuit affected by the fire on Columbia Street. Power is expected to be restored to the buildings along Columbia Street, from the Army & Navy building to the corner of 6th Street, by 4 p.m. on Thursday. Crews are working to restore power to the buildings between 6th Street and Begbie Street by Saturday, October 12th at the latest.