Downtown Squamish grow-op fire deemed ‘not suspicious’

District previously identified ‘life safety’ issues, but building spokesperson says those had nothing to do with cause of fire

Both RCMP and firefighters are saying there doesn’t appear to be anything suspicious regarding the cause of the fire that swept through a downtown cannabis grow operation last week.

“After an investigation, Squamish Fire Rescue is able to confirm that the cause is not suspicious,” said deputy chief Aaron Foote in an emailed statement.

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The exact cause of the fire on 37861 Third Avenue on April 8, however, has not been disclosed.

The District of Squamish said that causes of fires “are not routinely released to the broader public by Squamish Fire Rescue, except when public safety is of paramount concern.”

However, a report to District council presented on March 2017 noted that there were “life safety” issues in the building.

The report reads:

“Unpermitted work poses a significant life safety hazard to the occupants due to a number of identified contraventions including a lack of fire egress, unpermitted electrical installations, and structural components of this unpermitted alteration that have not been inspected or verified by the appropriate authorities.”

A bylaw contravention notice was placed on the title as a result of the building inspector’s findings.

In response, Frank Egyed, whose family’s company Garibaldi Steel Ltd. owns the building, told The Chief that those concerns have since been resolved.

“Unfortunately, this fire was a freak accident, and I want to know more than anybody what caused it,” Egyed said.

Egyed said the issues identified by the District did not have to do with fire safety and had nothing to do with the cause of the fire.

Instead, he said, they related to stairs, handrails, exits and exit signage.

“We’ve got complete sets of drawings prepared by engineers and architects that address all those issues,” Egyed said.

“We’ve done them all. We’ve got photos and everything…[to] indicate all these requirements have been met.”

The notice on title still remains on the property, but Egyed said that’s because District officials hadn’t yet come to the building to look at the changes.

They were, in fact, scheduled to come to the property the day after the fire, he said.

District spokesperson Christina Moore said a building inspector was scheduled to do a walk-through of the building on April 9.

“This wasn’t a final occupancy inspection, but would have given the District an indication of progress that had been made,” Moore wrote in an email.

She added that District could not confirm if all life-safety issues in the building had been resolved.

“Mr. Egyed has a Building Permit, and a Co-ordinating Registered Professional (CRP) was hired by Mr. Egyed to oversee all the inspections of the various professionals on the project (this is an often-used approach in complex buildings or building assemblies),” Moore wrote.

“The District would be involved in issuing a final occupancy permit, based on the CRP documentation. This had not happened yet.”

With respect to damage on the site, Egyed said the fire burned on the second floor, where smaller cannabis plants were kept.

He said there was no fire on the first floor, but some of the plants located there incurred smoke damage. There’s damage to the building from the second floor up, he added.

A structural engineer will be coming in to have a look at the facility to determine what condition the facility is in, Egyed said.

No one was hurt in the fire, save for a person who was hospitalized but later released for smoke inhalation, Squamish RCMP said.

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