Westminster Pier Park fire could take weeks to extinguish

It could be weeks before the fire at Westminster Pier Park is extinguished.

Two days after fire broke out at the waterfront site, New Westminster firefighters continue to work around the clock to extinguish the blaze.

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“The fire is approximately three acres in size right now. It’s fully involved underneath the decking of the pier,” said Fire Chief Tim Armstrong. “The biggest thing is getting access. Clearly we can’t put any personnel underneath the wharf, and we can’t put personnel on the wharf. So you either have to fight it from the water side or disassemble it or fight it from the foreshore.”

New Westminster Fire and Rescue Service received a call about a fire at Westminster Pier Park at 7:43 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 13. About 70 firefighters, including some from neighbouring fire departments, fought the fire on Sunday night, when flames were seen shooting 20 to 30 feet into the air.

“It’s still very much an active fire scene. As you can appreciate, we have about a three-acre site there that is fully involved under the timber wharf structure – the old section of the wharf that is approximately 100 years old,” Armstrong said. “The newer portion of the Pier Park was virtually saved and hasn’t sustained any real damage, minimal damage at best. We managed to contain the fire at that western point of the timber wharf. But from basically the end of the property right up to that pedestrian walkway is still fully involved underneath that pier.”

About 25 New West firefighters, and some contractors, continue to work to suppress the fire from both the land and water sides of the site.

“Right now, we are disassembling the timber wharf from the top deck and putting material on scows. That will be removed to a safe place, where it will have to still maintain fire watch and firefighting capabilities on the debris piles,” Armstrong noted said. “It is just going to be a long, slow process. Probably weeks.”

Armstrong said the part of the park that’s still on fire consists of “a massive amount of material” that needs to be removed.

“It could be weeks,” he said when asked how long it could take to extinguish the fire.

To help identify hotspots, New Westminster Fire and Rescue Service’s drone flew over the site on Tuesday.

“Our drone has a thermal-imaging camera on it. We do heat-signature mapping on it,” Armstrong said Tuesday afternoon. “I haven’t had a chance to review that footage. That footage will be able to show us where the fire is hottest, where the hotspots still are, and we will be better able to attack those areas directly. Right now it is kind of a guessing game where the fire is.”

Armstrong said the fire department is bringing in some high-pressure, high-volume pumps to help fight the fire.

Armstrong said he is unable to comment on the cause of the fire.

“Right now it is under investigation,” he said. “I can’t comment on the nature of the investigation, as to whether it is suspicious or not.”

Armstrong commended firefighters for their efforts in battling the blaze. No injuries have been reported.

“The crews are working very hard,” he said. “It’s hot. It’s strenuous work covering a large area. The crews are doing a phenomenal job. They are working hard. Long hours and under adverse conditions.”

 Armstrong said messages from community members are being passed along to the firefighters who are fighting the fire.

“We appreciate all the outpouring of support for the community,” he said. “Like other disasters we have had in New Westminster, and we have had a few, the community always seems to reach out and come together. We appreciate those kind words that we’ve been getting.”

Because of the park’s location on the Fraser River, the city is working with other agencies regarding environmental concerns related to the fire. Boomsticks have been set up around the site to help prevent fire debris from flowing downstream.

 

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