Heritage building, beloved bistro badly damaged in Port Moody fire
Witness says the fire broke out in a 2nd story apartment in a heritage building on Clarke Street
A fire badly damaged a Port Moody heritage building containing two apartments and the Gallery Bistro restaurant Sunday night.
According to acting fire chief Kirk Heaven, as of Monday morning, investigators were still working to determine how it started, and firefighters were still putting out hotspots in the 2400 block of Clarke Street.
Witness Nancy Nikolai said the fire broke out on the second floor of the heritage building that sits on the west side of the Gallery Bistro.
Nikolai said she and 25 others were at a private birthday party for Gallery Bistro co-owner Helen Daniels when a neighbour started yelling "fire."
"Rainer [Daniels, Helen's husband] threw him a fire extinguisher and he sort of mumbled and threw it back. I think he said 'it's too late,'" said Nikolai. "We were all told to get out of there and it just went so fast."
Six metre high flames
The fire sent flames leaping six metres into the air along with large plumes of black smoke.
Heaven said the good news was crews were able to stop the fire from moving to the buildings on the east side of the Gallery Bistro.
The only injuries were to firefighters. One needed medical attention for an ankle injury, while a few others were treated for heat exhaustion.
The fire started in the heritage building that was once home to the Roe & Abernethy Grocery Store, which was co-owned by Port Moody's first mayor, Perry Douglas Roe.
The building dates back to about 1913, the year after a large fire destroyed much of Port Moody's then city centre.
The main floor of the former Roe & Abernethy building was empty at the time, but according to Heaven, the second floor contained two apartments.
Nikolai said the Gallery Bistro is beloved in Port Moody as a hub for local musicians and artists. The extent of the damage is still being assessed.
"It's going to be a big hole in the community," she said. "I hate to conjecture about what the future may bring. Hopefully, they can do something and still have this venue down the road but it looks kind of bleak right now.
Another witness, Corinne Fransen was having dinner at the legion on Clarke Street Sunday night when she noticed smoke outside at around 6:30 p.m. PT.
She walked around the block to see what was happening and saw people running out of a restaurant still holding wine glasses.
"Some people were running out and somebody said, 'There's a fire there,'" she said.
Soon, the bistro, which Fransen says is alongside a row of old wood-frame buildings, was engulfed in flames that quickly spread to one of the nearby houses.
"The fire was pretty intense right away," Fransen said. "It didn't seem like it was just a smouldering little thing."
Four fire trucks arrived to battle the flames, she said. The fire is in an old area of Port Moody with lots of shops, she added.
Mark Beattie was working at the nearby Starbucks on Queens Street and St. Johns Street when he noticed white smoke outside at around 6:45 p.m. PT.
The smoke quickly turned dark and the flames reached as high as 20 feet (six metres), he said.
With files from Yvette Brend