‘Devastated’: Fire guts cultural hub in Port Moody’s ‘gallery row’

Fire destroys buildings in Port Moody’s heritage district
WATCH: Fire destroys buildings in Port Moody's heritage district

Port Moody heritage advocates and the city’s cultural community are reeling after a fire tore through a vacant property in the city’s “gallery row.”

Helen Daniels was celebrating her birthday with about 25 friends in the backyard of the Gallery Bistro when the fire broke out next door about 6 p.m. on Sunday.

“It just grew and grew, and pretty soon, there were four or five fire trucks here. I was just in shock; it didn’t seem real,” Daniels told Global News.

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About 34 firefighters from Port Moody and Coquitlam were called to the scene, where the heritage structures’ wood frames caused major challenges for crews.

Deputy fire Chief Kirk Heaven said it appears the Clarke Street fire broke out near the roof of an old general store.

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“It’s been closed for years. It was vacant, but we did have tenants above so the two tenants above did get out, and they did get out with their pets,” he said.

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“Just older buildings, different building codes back then. And the building was very, very dry, and it was tough to get a handle on it right away.”

The gallery suffered serious damage, and at least two other businesses saw smoke and water damage.

Lydia Podomnik with nearby Little Gypsies Fine Jewelry and Gallery said the fire struck at the cultural heart of the “City of the Arts.”

“[I’m] devastated. The Gallery Bistro cafe and buildings here, they’re such a part of Port Moody History,” she said.

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“They were just wonderful for the community, and it was a very good social gathering place,” added local musician Al Foreman.

The city said Clarke Street through the area would remain closed Monday night due to the fire damage, which also caused a water main to burst.

Daniels, who said she’s poured the last five years of her life into the business, said she’s not sure if the property will be salvageable, but that she’s been overwhelmed by the outpouring of community support.

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“I’m always thinking about it,” she said.

“It’s not a nine-to-five job so it’s really hard. It’s going to be hard to figure out what happens next.”