Fire department is concerned about safety conditions at camp. (THE NEWS/files)

Housing group says fire regs order will clear camp

City of Maple Ridge in Supreme Court on Jan. 14

If the City of Maple Ridge’s gets a court order to enforce fire safety regulations, it could mean the end of Anita Place Tent City, says the Alliance Against Displacement.

Maple Ridge heads to B.C. Supreme Court on Jan. 14 seeking an order to enforce fire safety regulations at Anita Place Tent City, where there have been six fires in the past 18 months.

But according to the Alliance, a court order regarding fire safety will result in the closure of the camp in the downtown, just south of Lougheed Highway.

“If granted, the shelters that residents have built to protect themselves from storms, from freezing temperatures and rats … will be destroyed in the middle of winter,” the Alliance said Thursday.

The city’s application will also seek an order to better identify those living in the camp.

The city said Dec. 11 that the aim is to understand how many people who are living on the property require assistance in obtaining housing.

The Alliance says that recent fires started in tents, as opposed to the wooden structures that it says the city wants to remove.

It also says that the city is focusing on removing the shacks, electricity and heat sources, which are essential to survival.

”Heat and light make it possible to fend off the freezing temperatures and long darkness of winter that homeless people are forced to contend with every day.”

Compliance would mean that people would have to live through the storms and cold of winter in one small tent, one tarp, no heat, no electricity, and no protection, the Alliance added.

The group said in early December that it wants 250 units of tenant-run social housing to be built as one of the conditions for clearing the camp. That’s up from 200 sought last year.

The city previously sought to achieve and maintain fire safety compliance on the property through a Consent Order of the B.C. Supreme Court, issued in November 2017.

Maple Ridge Mayor Michael Morden has said that closing the camp would be part of a community safety plan, currently in progress.

“Council is clear, the camp is untenable and unacceptable and we are resolved to closure,” Morden said online this week.

The city said in December that activity in the camp “has included the unauthorized construction of wooden structures, tampering with the electrical systems of the on-site washroom and shower trailer and the observation of numerous fuel containers on the property.”

In mid-December, Pivot Legal Society also spoke out against the city’s court application and produced a video about residents of the camp.

Tent city volunteer and former Maple Ridge council candidate Chris Bossley, however, called on the province to build another 100-bed temporary supportive housing complex on the Burnett Street and Lougheed Highway location, which was rejected last spring by the previous council.

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