Evacuation order issued for Maple Ridge homeless camp that saw 3 fires in one week
An evacuation order has been issued for the controversial Maple Ridge homeless camp that has been the site of three fires since Thursday.
The provincial fire commissioner issued the order late Friday afternoon as “a result of the existence of fire hazards and the risk of explosion [and] an imminent and serious danger to life and property if persons are permitted to occupy,” according to the City of Maple Ridge,
The order said that “all fire hazards, including flammable liquid and flammable compressed gas containers [must] be removed from the property,” and had the fire commissioner calling upon the “assistance of police and local fire prevention authorities.”
The order came on the heels of the latest fire to occur at the Anita Place homeless camp — also known as the St. Anne Camp Site — which occurred just Friday morning.
No one was hurt in the incident.
The fire was the ninth at the camp since it formed two years ago, and followed two others and an explosion earlier this week.
WATCH: Third fire reignites debate surrounding Anita’s Place homeless encampment
The recent fires happened despite the city enforcing a court injunction last weekend and removing nearly 100 propane tanks and other fire hazards from the site.
That removal has actually contributed to safety issues at the site, according to camp advocates.
“People are not going to freeze to death, they’re going to find ways to keep warm,” said Dave Diewart with the Alliance Against Displacement.
“The real solution to this is housing. They’ve just built a bunch of rental housing across the street. We’re asking BC housing to buy that rental housing and provide it for people who are living in the camp and others who are homeless.”
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Lawyers for the campers are seeking a stay in the injunction enforcement order until the issue can be brought back to court, and say in the meantime, the city should at least provide — or not deny — heat sources to campers.
However, neighbours are growing increasingly frustrated with the camp site.
“I was out last weekend cleaning up the ditch,” said area resident James Seip. “There was nothing but needle containers and bottles full of urine, bags full of feces.”
It remains unclear when the evacuation order will be enforced.
The City of Maple Ridge said it is coordinating evacuation plans with the fire department and Ridge Meadows RCMP.
It said the city will also connect with BC Housing to ensure there is shelter space for camp occupants during the evacuation period.
- With files from Jill Bennett
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