The Maple Ridge fire department was still on scene Friday morning. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

UPDATED: Third fire at Maple Ridge’s tent city in two days

No details on any injuries; city going back to court

There was another at Anita Place Tent City overnight Friday, the third in two days since the city removed heat sources from it last weekend during court-ordered safety inspections.

The most recent fire happened early Friday, following two previous fires on Wednesday.

The blaze started on the side of the camp near the Haney Bypass and slowed traffic while firefighters fought the blaze. It’s not certain if there were any injuries.

Chris Bossley, a camp organizer, said two structures were destroyed. The resident of one is safe, while the whereabouts of the other is unknown, she added.

Paramedics did not attend.

“I don’t know if there were any explosions,” Bossley said.

The fire occurred along the Haney Bypass side of the camp, opposite the entrance, near where the previous fires occurred.

On Wednesday, just after 2 p.m., three or four explosions rocked the camp and a 10-kilogram propane tank was venting and burning gas, according to a City of Maple Ridge news release.

Flames tore into the trees and tent at the main entrance to the camp on 223rd Street was destroyed.

Later Wednesday night, at about 10 p.m. a second fire destroyed a tent at the secondary entrance nearby. A propane cylinder and appliances were found in the remains of that tent, said the city.

The first two fires are still being investigated.

No one was hurt in either of those fires. It is not known about the third fire.

The camp has been without power for a week after the city asked for the electricity to be disconnected because the power box had been tampered with and there was a risk of electrocution.

Maple Ridge said in a news release Thursday that it was heading back to B.C. Supreme Court to seek orders to address obstruction of city workers in improving safety at the camp.

On the weekend, police and bylaws set up a barricade around Anita Place Tent City and residents were asked for identification to be put on a list for housing, while the fire department enforced safety regulations imposed by a B.C. Supreme Court order, issued by Justice Christopher Grauer earlier this month.

Officials removed some 100 propane tanks, gas canisters, generators and other potential ignition sources on the weekend.

Investigation of the fires on Wednesday, however, revealed more such materials had been re-introduced to the camp, said the city.

It alleges work to bring the camp into compliance with fire safety standards was impeded and the city will now return to court.

“The two fires on Wednesday, Feb. 28, and the evidence that a significant quantity of ignition sources and accelerants have been reintroduced to the site has reinforced a decision by the City of Maple Ridge to return to the B.C. Supreme Court. The city is requesting remedies to address the obstruction of city workers in carrying out the terms of the court order and for mechanisms to ensure the safety of city workers who are conducting work on the site.”

The Pivot Legal Society, which has represented the camp residents in court, is seeking to appear before the Court of Appeal regarding the court-ordered safety enforcements at Anita Place Tent City.

Pivot alleges the city is not collaborating with camp residents and said shutting off heat to the camp warming tent was misconduct by the city, among other “numerous and egregious contraventions” of the court order.

B.C. Housing said Thursday that it was the City of Maple Ridge and the Maple Ridge Fire Department’s decision to cut power to the site.

“B.C. Housing believes that given the cold temperatures, it is important for people at the camp to have access to basic services, while the judge’s ruling also included reference to the access to hot water and a heat source,” said Laura Mathews, communications advisor with B.C. Housing.

“We understand that the city is now reconsidering their actions regarding water and heat,” she added.

“B.C. Housing will continue to support efforts to help people with the services they need. The warming tent funded by B.C. Housing used propane as a heat source, and required electricity to operate. When power to the camp was disconnected, it impacted the heat source in the warming tent. As the fire department has now deemed propane tanks unsafe for use at the camp, B.C. Housing is waiting for the fire department to approve an alternate heating option.”

Mathews said outreach teams continue to encourage people at the camp to take advantage of spaces at the Salvation Army and other shelters in the area.

Mayor Mike Morden said in a release Friday that there were no injuries and that the fire started at 1:45 a.m. “I want to make it very clear that I, and all members of council, share the citizens’ concerns for the safety of the camp occupants, the surrounding neighbourhood and our front-line responders,” Morden said.

Soon after the city’s announcement Thursday, the Alliance Against Displacement, which has been advocating for the camp residents, announced a protest rally on Tuesday, March 5 “to defend Anita Place and call for homes, not prison camps.”

The rally will be at the homeless camp, beginning at 4 p.m.

“Their two-day long raid aimed at seizing about 50 homeless peoples’ means of keeping themselves warm – confiscating any device that casts heat – even as an unseasonable cold snap continued,” said the Alliance.

“You can’t legislate someone to freeze because the threat of arrest will never be as severe or pressing as the immediate pains of the cold.”

The Alliance called for the city and province to provide safe electricity outlets at each tent and structure and safe, radiant or ceramic electric heaters to each person who needs them.

“These resources would cost a fraction of the budget blown on two days of over-the-top police enforcement that achieved nothing, not even by the city and courts’ own measure.”

 

The Maple Ridge fire department was still on scene Friday morning. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

Two shacks were destroyed in Friday morning fire at Anita Place Tent City. (Phil Melnychuk/THE NEWS)

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