The early morning blaze in downtown Prince Rupert provided the city's news media with a developing story to provide updates for to the local citizenry through the day.
As locals drove or walked by the latest site in the city marked by Police evidence tape and the sound of excavators tearing down the remaining walls, the story of the morning's events, the fate of the residents and where the investigation into the fire may turn were all examined from a variety of directions.
For the archives, we provide the interpretations of the mornings events as seen through a variety of news departments in the city.
From the frequently updated efforts through the day of the Northern View, the observations of CFTK News and the Daily New's backgrounder on the fire which includes some details from what was described as a passerby who has a rather interesting name, (which leads us to think that perhaps asking for some ID next time might be an idea) providing some thoughts on a potential cause of the fire for the paper.
Fire in downtown Prince Rupert being treated as suspicious
By Shaun Thomas
The Northern View
Friday, April 30, 2010
A fire in Prince Rupert's downtown core that left the Epicurean building severely damaged is being treated as suspicious.
"The fire is suspicious, but we are unable to release the cause of the fire at this time. There was no electrical and no gas in the area the fire started, and it remains under investigation," said Fire Chief Dave McKenzie.
The Prince Rupert Fire Department were called to an early morning fire in the downtown core on April 30, a fire that left the old Epicurean building and the residential units on the top floor significantly damaged.
"At 2:04 a.m. we received a 911 call and firefighters were on scene in just over a minute. When firefighters arrived there was a fire at the back of the building," explained McKenzie.
"While we were trying to extinguish the fire we had to rescue three people from the top floor. One was pulled out of a window and another two were able to walk out through the bottom entrance...Right now we assume everyone got out safely. We rescued three people and were not told of anyone else in the building."
A total of 13 firefighters were on the scene, and it took approximately two hours to extinguish the blaze. By 4:15 p.m. the section of downtown that had been closed down was restricted to the immediate vicinity of the building, and the back corner where the fire was first discovered had been brought down.
McKenzie says the building will most likely be "a total write-off" as passers-by can see the roof is collapsed and much of the interior has been burned.
"The structure is there and it's fixable, but with the dollar value for the repairs and insurance it might be more cost effective to tear it down," he said, noting that that will be a discussion for the owner of the building and the insurance company to have.
The fire was also the first real test for the department's new truck, which McKenzie said work amazingly well in this situation.
"Every time you make that type of investment and use it, it's good because people see why that expenditure was needed...You hope you don't have to use it, but it's good to know it is there when you need it," he said.
Prince Rupert firefighters battle early morning blaze.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Firefighters in Prince Rupert were busy battling a blaze that fully engulfed a building for four hours early this morning. According to police the fire that completely destroyed the Epicurean restaurant on the Second avenue of downtown was suspicous.
"Our investigation is continuing. We've had some witnesses provide some information that has aided us with our investigation of this fire. We have some suspects in mind and we're expecting to advance the investigation in the next few days." Said RCMP Inspector Bob Killberry.
The fire department got the call at 2:04 am. The Epicurean restaurant had been vacant for quite some time but above the restaurant there were five apartment suites and in them residents were still trapped.
Arriving crews found we had fire underneath the apartments and while that was going on we also found that we had people trapped inside so we had to evacuate them from the building so we went right to a rescue mode and it became more than a firefighting response at that time and had to add additional crews to arrive on scene." Said Fire Chief Dave Mackenzie.
All of the tenants escaped without injury and have all been accounted for.
The reason the fire is suspicious is because the fire began outside the building. one witness who phoned in the fire says a day earlier someone had dropped off a sofa outside by the dumpster. Then this morning moments before the fire broke out he saw and heard people sitting on it while smoking and arguing. He says the next thing he heard, they were shouting profanities and running away down the alley. Just minutes later a fire was burning out of control.
"The fire occurred in the covered parking area at the back of the building in the allleyway and occurred from the outside of the building and so at this point in time it's premature to say whether it was intentional or accidental." Added Killberry.
As for the damage, it's extensive. From the street level you can't really tell but looking down it's a different story.
"It's pretty much a write-off ...once it got through the kitchen system, it went right up to the roof and on the roof it was tough to control. It went right to a defensive attack" Said Mackenzie.
The entire roof melted off and the apartment suites are hardly recognizable. both Killberry and Mackenzie say that anyone who witnesses any sort of suspicous behavior like people hanging around the exterior of a building especially late at night or in the early hours of the morning, should contact the police and report the incident.
Vicious fire levels the former Epicurean building
By George T. Baker
Prince Rupert Daily News
Friday, April 30, 2010
A full squadron fire department response could not save the former Epicurean restaurant from a fire building early Friday morning, leaving some residents homeless and local fire fighters exhausted.
The fire began at approximately 2 a.m. and the cause is still under investigation by Prince Rupert RCMP and the Prince Rupert Fire Department.
Fire Chief Dave McKenzie told the Daily News that firemen did rescue three people from the fire, though because of the attention paid to the fire, no description of whom they rescued was available.
“Once they hit the ground they were running.
“We did not have time to really do too much because we were first on the scene and we had to go right into rescue mode to get these people out,” said McKenzie.
McKenzie added they do not know if it was only three people inside at the beginning of the fire and where the origins of the fire began.
“People had got out and people were still trying to get out that we got out, and then we ended up taking another one out through the window,” said McKenzie.
McKenzie said that available full squadron responded to the fire call this morning, with 13 firemen on scene battling the blaze.
Using their new truck, the squadron was able to quell the fire by about 4 a.m. McKenzie credited the truck’s new monitoring system on its ladder with helping keep the fire at bay, and not spreading to the other buildings and businesses – the Moose Lodge, Carlyle Sheppard, Frank the Barber Shop, Rhodos and the Coast Hotel – which was great relief to many of the people employed in the buildings.
One employee at Frank’s told the Daily News that she was notified about the fire at 2 a.m. and was told that the only thing to worry about was if the fire jumped roofs because the Carlyle building was made of concrete and would hold up.
At 9 a.m., the 700 block of Second Avenue West was covered in wood debris, ash and fire hose. Police yellow taped the surrounding scene, keeping onlookers to the perimeter.
A passerby, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, said that at 11:30 a.m. the previous evening, he passed by the building and believed he heard a party taking place. And when he passed by again, leaving a local establishment, Seagull said that’s when he saw the fire.
The overhang in an alley just off Seventh St. was badly crumpled.
The overhang is a notorious location for drinking and loitering, with police attending the scene on almost a daily basis.
This is the second fire to destroy a building on Second Ave. West in just over one year.
That last fire destroyed the Inlander Hotel, a hotel that housed many of the City’s hard to house. Four locals were charged with arson in connection to the fire.
The Epicurean building fulfilled a similar purpose, likely placing more pressure on the city’s available affordable housing.
Built in 1975, the building once was home to the Epicurean Restaurant during the city’s stronger economic days. It shut down for good in 1998. The upstairs was always used as a living space.