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Shuttered Ambleside Youth Centre catches fire in West Vancouver

The shuttered Ambleside Youth Centre was destroyed by a large blaze late Saturday night. West Vancouver Fire and Rescue crews arrived on the scene around 11 p.m. to find the building at 1018 Pound Rd. fully engulfed.

The shuttered Ambleside Youth Centre was destroyed by a large blaze late Saturday night.

West Vancouver Fire and Rescue crews arrived on the scene around 11 p.m. to find the building at 1018 Pound Rd. fully engulfed.

“Crews met heavy fire conditions on arrival. It was a lot of very open floor space,” said assistant fire chief Jeff Bush. “It wasn’t compartmentalized so it allowed the fire to travel quite quickly.”

The flames had already shot through the roof of the decommissioned youth centre by the time crews arrived.

West Vancouver resident Alfie Waugh captured images of the blaze a few minutes after 11 p.m. from the balcony of his 14th storey apartment building overlooking Ambleside.

“Heard sirens then looked out the balcony to see the fire,” recounted Waugh. 

Multiple people reported the fire to emergency officials, said Bush, as the smoke could be seen from a distance.

Sixteen firefighters were on the scene battling the blaze and setting up a defensive barrier between the engulfed building and the adjacent West Vancouver SPCA.

“That was a concern of ours,” said Bush, of protecting the SPCA and its occupants.

Ninety per cent of the fire was knocked down fairly quickly, according to Bush, “but because the structure collapsed there was a lot of hot spots under the debris.”

Fire investigators were at the scene Monday to begin looking into the cause of the blaze which was contained to the one structure.

Pound Road south of Marine Drive will be closed for an indefinite amount of time while investigators swift through the debris.  

“As far as cause goes, we have no idea. We’ve just begun the investigation this morning,” said Bush.

Asked if the recent closure of the centre sparks any suspicion about the fire, Bush said: “No, no it doesn’t. And we treat every fire exactly the same.”

The West Vancouver Police Department is assisting in the investigation, confirmed spokesperson Const. Kevin Goodmurphy.

“We do have investigators there from our major investigations team, and they are working with fire investigators who ultimately determine whether or not arson was possibly at play here,” said Goodmurphy.

Police have put a call out for witnesses, asking anyone who has information related to the fire at the old youth centre to contact Det./Cpl. Kellie English of the major investigations team at 604-925-7300, and quote police file No. 19-3553.

After serving as a hub for West Vancouver’s youth for 22 years, the municipality opted to decommission the decrepit Pound Road structure following roof failure and collapse of the ceiling in January.

The building was on schedule to be demolished and converted to parking by mid-April, according to District of West Vancouver spokeswoman Donna Powers, who added the utilities had already been disconnected at the site, and all contents from the former youth centre moved out.

The district has contacted its demolition contractor and requested an updated estimate, given the new circumstances.

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