Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue chief Howard Exner inspects aftermath of tent city fire, Wednesday. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Still no heat in tent city warming tent

Maple Ridge said it would talk to BC Housing

The warming tent remained cool at the tent city in Maple Ridge Thursday after electricity and propane were cut off last Friday, Feb. 22.

The city had asked for the electricity to be shut off after a power box had been tampered with, leaving the electrical fixtures open to the elements and creating a risk of electrocution.

Two large propane tanks that provided hot water and heat for the warming tent were also removed by the supplier, after tampering was found and one of the larger tanks was tipped over to fill smaller propane tanks.

“This has been a consistent problem at the camp,” Mayor Michael Morden told council at its Tuesday meeting.

As of Thursday, almost a week later, the services remain cut off.

“If the city wanted to, it could have put electricity back on to that site the next day,” tent city advocate Chris Bossley said Thursday.

“They could have very easily replaced the electrical box the day it was removed because they have five security guards milling about down there,” Bossley said.

However, Coun. Gordy Robson said that the lack of services at the camp “is caused by them [residents] sabotaging them, it’s not us.”

Bossley contends there was inadequate physical protection around those utilities in the first place and they could have been installed more securely. With security now at the site all day, they could monitor the utilities, she added.

She noted that since heat services were cut off, there have been two fires at the camp.

“The lives of these folks are in danger down there, as far as I’m concerned,” Bossley said.

In its Feb. 23 news release, the city said it will work with B.C. Housing to determine how these services can be restored in a safe fashion.

However, B.C. Housing hadn’t heard yet from the city as of Thursday morning.

“B.C. Housing was not part of that decision and is not aware of the city, or the fire department’s plans to reconnect the power,” BC Housing spokesperson Laura Matthews said Wednesday.

Supported by a Supreme Court order, the city moved in on the weekend to remove hazardous fuels and supplies from the camp and to verify residents of the tent city, with the authority to remove those who are not verified occupants.

Morden said that about 100 propane tanks were removed from the site.

But since the weekend, the camp has remained open, allowing anyone to freely enter and exit.

Meanwhile, B.C. Housing outreach teams will keep encouraging people to use the Salvation Army or the mat program that can provide warm places to sleep at night.

“Our focus remains on working as quickly as possible to find long-term affordable and supportive housing solutions for people in Maple Ridge, including people at Anita Place camp,” Mathews said.

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