Maple Ridge firefighters battled downtown blaze at 223rd Street and Lougheed Highway for hours. (THE NEWS/Files)

Maple Ridge firefighters battled downtown blaze at 223rd Street and Lougheed Highway for hours. (THE NEWS/Files)

Old Maple Ridge auto dealership building destined for demolition

Fire department finished inspection, writing report

It’s been a cornerstone of the downtown where people bought new cars, or picked up spare parts, or at Christmas, where kids used to see Santa.

Now, the former Mussallem Chevrolet Oldsmobile Cadillac auto dealership is a burned-out hulk, whose fate is doomed and pre-ordained.

A huge fire tore through the building Nov. 10 and gutted what used to be Mussallem motors and destroyed a home renovation business that had been renting the premises.

Bob Mussellem, one of the owners of the building, said the plan is to demolish the wreck early in the new year. Another goal is to complete the environmental remediation process, to allow the sale of all 10 parcels of land at the corner of 223rd Street and Lougheed Highway.

Former Maple Ridge mayor Solomon Mussallem founded the business in 1919, when it was named Haney Garage Ltd. on 224th Street, south of Lougheed Highway. The business made its last move to its location on Lougheed and 223rd in 1947.

Bob Mussallem said completing the environmental remediation process is what’s taking time, adding that no matter who purchases the property, the original owner has to do the remediation.

The family wants to sell the property and told Maple Ridge council in 2014 that many purchasers wanted smaller parcels instead of the entire property, which takes almost half a block on Lougheed.

But there’s still interest in the property, he added.

Maple Ridge fire chief Howard Exner said Thursday that the department has finished its investigation and is now writing a report.

“The cause of the fire has been narrowed to some extent,” Exner said.

“We have no evidence to suggest that people were involved in the start of the fire.”

He said previously that the fire started in an enclosed attic space and burned undetected at first.

“So it took a long time for the fire to grow to the size so it could escape the void and actually trip the fire alarm, initiating devices inside the building,” he said.

It was about this time that the fire then became visible to people who were walking or driving by at just at just about 8:17 p.m. that night. There were no injuries.