British Columbia

Fire at New Westminster pier finally extinguished

A massive fire engulfed the timber wharf section of Westminster Pier Park on Sept. 13. Investigation into the fire is ongoing, although police arrested a man suspected of arson on Sept. 15.

A massive fire engulfed historic park on Sept. 13; police arrested a man suspected of arson on Sept. 15

Fire crews work to put out a stubborn, smouldering fire on the historic New Westminster pier in New Westminster, B.C., on Sept. 16. The fire was finally extinguished on Sept. 24. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The fire at New Westminster's historic pier, started over ten days ago, has finally been extinguished, according to city officials and the New Westminster Fire Department. 

Fire Chief Tim Armstrong said crews have been working tirelessly to contain the fire which broke out in the timber wharf section of Westminster Pier Park late in the evening of Sept. 13

Crews were able to contain the initial fire, but supporting timber piling underneath the deck surface — treated with the coal-tar based preservative creosote — continued to smoulder for days. It was finally extinguished Thursday.

In the statement posted on the city's website, Armstrong thanked his New Westminster Fire Department crews as well as outside agencies and other city departments that supported the intense operation. 

WATCH | Video of the fire that destroyed a stretch of the pier:

A massive fire tore through Westminster Pier Park in New Westminster, B.C., on Sept. 13, 2020. The city's mayor said the old section of the promenade, cherished by locals and favoured by tourists, was likely completely destroyed. 1:01

The city says Front Street, which has been closed to traffic as crews worked on the fire, will re-open early next week. However, it says the Front Street Parkade and portions of Westminster Pier Park will remain closed until further notice.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The major crimes unit with the New Westminster Police Department arrested one man under suspicion of arson on Sept. 15.

The 'Wow Westminster' public art installation, pictured here on Sept. 16, has since been removed due to structural damage to the timber wharf. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Damage from the fire led to the removal of the Wow Westminster installation — a huge piece of public art comprising four shipping containers shaped into a "W" — as the timber structure that supports the piece was compromised. The art piece has been dismantled and removed from the site as clean-up and remediation take place.

The historic pier is part of New Westminster's chief waterfront recreational attraction, which opened to much praise in 2012. It included an urban beach where people could play volleyball, lounge in hammocks or walk the 600 metre-long boardwalk.

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