Fire in the disco!
By Jessica Berget, Assistant Editor
This year has not been easy on New Westminster. On top of COVID damaging both the food service and business sectors, the city has been subject to not one but two major fires—with 29 days between them.
The September 13 New Westminster Pier Park fire was extinguished after 10 days. Another fire was reported at a Queensborough neighbourhood on October 12 in the plastic recycling plant and is now being treated as possibly suspicious. In an interview with CTV News, Assistant Deputy Chief Rob Dick said that surveillance videos are being investigated because “it was raining for the last two days quite heavily, no electrical outlets present,” to CTV News. “The fact that the fire started with no real cause, we are treating it as a suspicious fire at this point.”
More than 40 firefighters, including some called in from Delta and Richmond, assisted with the extinguishing and were able to control the fire after several hours. Thankfully, this fire was not nearly as damaging as the one from last month, which is estimated to cost about $10 million to repair.
According to New Westminster Police, a man has now been criminally charged for the fire at Pier Park which destroyed much of the pier and the iconic “W” statue. On October 13, Sean Warnick, a 49-year-old man, was charged with mischief to property over $5000 and damaging property with arson. He has since been released from custody with conditions and made a scheduled court appearance on October 14, according to CTV News.
But what motivates people to deliberately set fires? According to Psychology Today, fire setting is recognized as a mental illness attribute—a behaviour that stems from other deeply rooted issues, as it can be an “irresistible compulsion” for some people. They also say arson is used as a weapon of revenge or for other destructive aims and that it is more common among males (females commit nearly one third of deliberate fires), and victims of sexual abuse. Fire setters also tend to be socially isolated and lack coping skills with a prevalence of suicide being higher with those who set fires deliberately. Furthermore, according to Firehouse, a media outlet aimed at education for fire/rescue professionals, there are six motive classifications associated with fire starters: vandalism, excitement, revenge, crime concealment, profit, and extremism.