Chief says fire could be burning for days or possibly weeks
By Jessica Berget, Assistant Editor
SkyTrain riders heading over the Fraser River bridge this past week will have witnessed a sad and smoky sight. Late in the evening on September 13, the New Westminster pier caught on fire burning the boardwalk to ashes and much of the waterfront pier park.
The news comes as a shock to the city of New Westminster as they urge residents to stay away from the pier and iconic boardwalk. New West mayor Jonathan Cote says it’s a huge loss for the city’s community. “Pier Park has become an important heart of the city. It is really heartbreaking to see the fire happen […] Thankfully it looks like the new part of the park is going to be saved, but unfortunately the old pier structure is not going to survive the fire,” he said to CTV News.
The pier will be forever changed by this event and could take awhile to it get it back to its original glory. New West fire chief Tim Armstrong says the fire took 25 firefighters to contain the fire and that it could take days, or even weeks to fully extinguish it. “When the crews arrived, we had fire underneath the wharf by the New Westminster ‘W,’” said Armstrong in the same CTV News article. Although the “W” structure was not destroyed, the damage from the fire forced emergency responders to remove it for the time being—with no news about when or if it will be reinstalled. He also says he believes about five to six acres of the boardwalk spanning from the SkyTrain bridge to the pier concession was involved in the fire.
The city has already opened a criminal investigation into the matter and as of September 17, arrested a suspect on arson related charges. The suspect has since been released and remains unnamed by the police. The criminal investigation is still open and investigators from the major crime unit will forward a report to the Crown to decide on any charges. New West mayor claims the fire was due to negligence, not ill intent.
The fire also worsened the already smoggy air from the forest fires across the border. Classes in the surrounding area’s elementary schools had to be suspended on account of the air quality from the smoke. New West fire chief Armstrong says the smoke is extremely toxic because of the burning creosote—a wood preservative made of a variety of chemicals.
New West mayor Cote says the pier will eventually be rebuilt after the fire has been resolved. “Downtown New West is the oldest part of British Columbia. We’ve seen our challenges and crises over the years, but we are a resilient community. We will continue to fight on, and we will rebuild,” he said.