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West Vancouver 'party house' fire likely human caused, fire chief says

A full investigation won't get underway until Monday

A late-night blaze that levelled West Vancouver's "party house with a view" is being looked at as suspicious, says the district's acting fire chief.

At around 11 p.m. Thursday, BC Ferries passengers who witnessed a structure fire on Tyee Point near the ferry terminal called 911, according to West Vancouver Fire and Rescue.

As of Friday at noon, the blaze was under control, with a fireboat continuing to put water on the remaining fire, said West Vancouver Fire & Rescue Acting Fire Chief Gord Howard, adding that there are no known injuries.

Ground crews have set up a perimeter around the fire, checking for hot spots and watching the surrounding area, he said. The burning structure caused several nearby trees to catch fire, but luckily the wildfire risk has come down with some recent rainfall, Howard said, so the flames didn't spread to the surrounding interface as quickly as they could have.

Investigators are coming onsite Friday to conduct a preliminary investigation.

It's safe to say that the fire is being looked at as "suspicious," Howard said.

"There was no power to the building, and no other likely [natural] causes," he said. "It is probable that it would have been caused by a human in some capacity ... in a number of ways, a discarded cigarette, a fire that they had let go, it could be a cooking thing – we just don’t know at this point."

The structure on the prime slice of West Vancouver waterfront has been vacant for years, and has been known by police to host squatters and parties.

After speaking with the owners of the property, Howard said they were "shaken up" by the loss of the building, but didn't provide further information.

Because crews will still be working on the fire for most of the day, the investigation won't get underway in earnest until Monday, he said.

Howard thanked the passengers and BC Ferries staff that put in the initial reports, which allowed crews to respond and put down the blaze quickly.

After the flames were first reported Thursday night, fire department responded with three engines, a 4x4 wildfire truck, a tower truck and duty chief. Due to the challenging terrain, with steep slopes on one side and ocean on the other, a request was made for support from the water and Vancouver Fireboat 1 was dispatched.

“Vancouver Fireboat 1 was deployed and proved very effective in knocking down the fire, which had begun to spread to the interface,” the fire department said in a statement.

The Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue, as well as Coastal Fire Centre were also activated early on in the incident.

Temperatures were cool and wind was calm, which made the risk to the surrounding interface low.

“After the initial knockdown of the fire using the fireboat, West Vancouver fire crews deployed wildfire pumps and hose, using water from the ocean, to establish control lines to extinguish spot fires and continue to action the structure fire that, although under control, was still burning,” the statement read.

Crews worked through the night to keep water on the fire. A search of the structure and surrounding area was carried out and no occupants were found, WVFR added.

“There were concerns for crew safety given the conditions and terrain, and BC (Emergency Health Services) had a crew stand by in case of any injuries to our fire crews,” the department said.

West Vancouver police assisted on scene with securing the area, while RCMSAR helped control boat traffic and assisted crews with assessing progress  on the fire from the water, according to the department.

Previously, the "party house with a view" had garnered attention for its desirable location and high property value, contrasted with the abandoned, graffiti-covered structure inhabiting the property.

nlaba@nsnews.com
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