A fire torn through the old Mussallem Motors building on 223rd Street and Lougheed Highway in downtown Maple Ridge Friday night, leaving one business owner wondering what he’ll do next.
Alan Utting, owner of AK Designer Home Improvements, has leased 90 per cent of the building from the Mussallem family for the past four years. He was notified about the fire at 8:17 p.m. by the fire department.
It was still burning at midnight. There was a huge plume of smoke, and the smell of the burning building could be detected all over downtown Maple Ridge.
Mayor Nicole Read, on Facebook, commended the Maple Ridge fire department for its response.
“Our fire crews are amazing people. Fighting a huge blaze. So proud of who they are and what they do to keep us safe,” she said.
Lougheed Highway, through downtown, was barricaded, as were some side streets.
Firefighters remained on scene Saturday, when a westbound section of Lougheed Highway was still closed.
Maple Ridge Fire Chief Howard Exner said the cause of the fire is not yet known.
Utting was at a loss, as well.
“I have no idea how this started.”
He said Friday was a normal day at work. There had been no issues with the building, which he said had been listed for sale for since he moved in. But, he added, it couldn’t be sold until site remediation work was completed as the site used to contain oil tanks.
Utting said the building had no other tenants, although six or seven movies were shot there in the past four years.
His business was in home renovations – flooring, kitchens, bathrooms, windows.
He’s not sure if any of his inventory or the building itself can be salvaged.
The roof of the building collapsed in the fire.
Utting said no one was injured.
“Everybody is safe. That’s the main thing to me.”
But he has no business to operate now, nor a place to operate from, and he has a family to support.
“I’m trying to see a way forward,” he said.
“Right now, I just have to wait and see. But it’s hard to remain positive.”