A fire started in a tent outside the Anita Place Tent City last week. There were no injuries. (Contributed)

A fire started in a tent outside the Anita Place Tent City last week. There were no injuries. (Contributed)

UPDATE: Fire chief worried about state of Maple Ridge tent city

Propane tanks pose a threat

Some residents along River Road in Port Haney are looking for their propane barbecue tanks that have gone missing in the past few weeks.

A resident who lives along the road near the West Coast Express station said that about five people in his building have had propane tanks stolen off their balconies and patios in the last few weeks.

Residents in other nearby buildings have also been hit.

The resident, Roger Craik, doubted the tanks are being taken to the nearby Anita Place Tent City because there’s too much official presence there with fire and police making regular appearances at the camp.

But he said the tanks could be used by homeless people trying to keep warm in more secluded spots down by the Fraser River. He’s asking that anyone missing a tank, to call RCMP.

Maple Ridge fire chief Howard Exner said he does see propane tanks throughout tent city, although he doesn’t know where they came from. Still, there’s only supposed to be two such tanks located in the cooking area of the camp.

“There are propane tanks. There are lots of them. It’s another part of the regulations they’ve ignored,” he said of campers.

Exner fears the propane tanks are being used to run heaters inside tents. But doing that creates an extreme fire hazard and possible aphyxiation from carbon monoxide.

“It could be an ignition source to start a large fire. It could be such a catastrophic fire in there.”

The fire department makes weekly inspections of the camp, with B.C. Housing and camp organizers, Exner said. The department points out safety issues and makes weekly reports, which are posted at the camp. Specific safety steps, such as maintaining clear exits and pathways, ensuring a metre-space between each tent and a ban on hanging items on fences, have been posted at the camp.

One heater was proposed but it said right on the label, don’t use in an enclosed space.

Fire safety was one of the reasons for the city resuming an injunction to clear the camp in November.

The city and lawyers for the camp then agreed to improve fire safety conditions and suspend the injunction.

Improvements are being made, but it’s slow process, Exner said.

New tent pads on plastic pallets will be spaced out so that tents have more space between them.

Exner also said that if a fire started in the camp, “in amongst all those tents piled together, there will be nothing we can to prevent the loss of life, injury and certainly, the loss of property that takes place.”

That’s not uncommon, he added. There have been previous fires in homeless camps and there was one recently in Vancouver, and a recent fatal fire in Chilliwack. A tent caught fire outside the camp in Maple Ridge last week.

But one of the Pivot Legal Society lawyers for the camp, Anna Cooper said the court order issued last November said the ability for campers to comply with regulations depended on the materials they were provided by BC Housing.

Residents have swapped out the hazardous tarps with more fire-resistant tarps provided by BC Housing, she said. Similarly, campers are now on fire-resistant tent pads, now that they have them.

According to the order issued Nov. 27 in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, the camp is supposed to have fire-resistant tents, tarps, cold-weather sleeping bags and clothes, and in-tent heaters – all to be supplied at no cost.

The order says the in-tent heaters will be “subject to the safety approval by the Maple Ridge fire department, (not to be unreasonably withheld).”

But it’s not up to the fire department to say how specifically to organize the camp, he added. And the department doesn’t have the resources to research what kind of heaters are appropriate. “If they bring us a heater and they want us to take a look at it to see if it’s acceptable or not, that’s our role,” Exner said.

Campers are doing their best to stay safe, Cooper said. “They are scared more than anybody about setting their own tents on fire. Those are the only homes that they have,” Cooper said. She added that the issue comes up in every tent city around the province. If electrical heaters are to be used, the city would have to issue an electrical permit.

They’d welcome any safety tips, she added.

There’s nowhere for homeless people to go to get inside during the day, she added.

Chris Bossley, who helps out at the camp, wonders how much communication from the fire department has been given to the residents there.

So far, the camp has yet to see fire-proof tents from B.C. Housing, nor a warming centre nor a washroom building, she added. However, a washroom could be installed this week. That is mentioned in the court order, though no installation deadline is included.

“The folks at the camp are doing the best they can with the supplies provided.”

Ridge Meadows RCMP have yet to comment on the missing propane tanks.

Order Made After Application [Nov. 27] by Phil Melnychuk on Scribd

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Email your cooking questions to Chef Dez at dez@chefdez.com.
ON COOKING: Chef Dez does parsley pesto

Pesto traditionally has fresh basil but parsley is a tasty alternative

A cyclist was struck on Lougheed Highway at 209 Street on Monday afternoon. (Neil Corbett - The News)
Cyclist injured after collision with car on Lougheed Highway

Police, fire and ambulance respond to call in Maple Ridge

Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Community Services’ Better at Home Program is now offering a grocery delivery program for seniors. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows organization now delivering groceries for seniors

Community Services’ Better at Home Program filling in the gaps of Thrifty Foods Sendial program

An acro performance as part of the Greg Moore Youth Centre’s talent show video. (Special to The News)
Maple Ridge’s talented youth featured in Youth Week video

BC Youth Week marked by Greg Moore Youth Centre

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a ‘person of interest’ in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
RCMP identify ‘person of interest’ in Kootenay National Park suspicious death

Police are looking for Philip Toner, who was known to a woman found dead near Radium last week

Vancouver Canucks goaltender Thatcher Demko (35) makes a save on Winnipeg Jets’ Nate Thompson (11) during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, May 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
Vancouver Canucks see NHL playoff hopes dashed despite 3-1 win over Winnipeg

Montreal Canadiens earn final North Division post-season spot

Elias Pettersson and the Vancouver Canucks drew a large crowd to the Abbotsford Centre in 2019. Canucks management hopes the crowds return for the planned AHL team this fall, and early returns are positive. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)
Canucks: ‘Incredible’ early interest for Abbotsford AHL tickets

Team has had a strong response to both e-mail information and priority ticket lists

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Most Read