Section of New Westminster’s Pier Park likely ‘completely destroyed’ by massive fire: Mayor

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A massive, four-alarm fire broke out at New Westminster, B.C.’s Pier Park on Sunday evening.

New Westminster Mayor Jonathan Cote took to Twitter, calling the fire “devastating.”

“The fire is being contained to the old part of the pier, but it is likely the old pier of the park will be completely destroyed,” wrote Cote.

“At this time the cause is not known. It is not believed anyone was caught in this fire,” he added.

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The fire is believed to have started around 8 p.m.

“It’s quite serious. It’s burning underneath the piles,” said New Westminster City Councillor Chuck Puchmayr, who said he’d recently spoken with the city’s fire chief.

Puchmayr said the city had requested assistance from a Vancouver Fire Rescue Services fire boat, along with help from fire crews in other municipalities including Coquitlam, Richmond and Delta.

Read more: Massive fire burns at Canadian Pacific railyard in Port Coquitlam

The Pier Park is a 2.5-kilometre stretch of reclaimed waterfront between the Fraser River and Front Street that was built in 2009 at a cost of about $ 24 million, according to Puchmayr.

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“Right now it is seriously compromised here, and this fire seems to be burning underneath,” said Puchmayr. “Very difficult to attack it from the top.”

“It’s spreading as it’s burning underneath it. It’s just literally spreading and then taking over the top part, which is landscaped and lawn and volleyball court and basketball courts. And, you know, it’s quite an amazing structure… It was quite an amazing structure.”

Read more: Chemical fire at Port Metro Vancouver extinguished

The structure is elevated above the river on highly-flammable creosote-coated pilings, which former New Westminster Mayor Wayne Wright said had caught fire.

“It can go up pretty quick, and it looks like it is,” he said.

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Wright told Global News he was hopeful sections of the pier downriver would fare better against the flames, because they are build on steel pilings.

The well-known WOW Westminster sculpture created by Brazillian artist José Resende, which consists of four shipping containers in the shape of a “W” appears to have been caught up in the fire.

“It represents New Westminster and the workers that are here in this part of the country,” said wright of the sculpture.

Koula Papakyriakopoulos owns the Taverna Greka restaurant across Front Street from the park, and said the fire didn’t appear serious at first.

“We saw the fire trucks here but didn’t see a fire for a while, and then all of a sudden the W was in flames, it was quite terrifying,” she said.

The loss of the park will have a significant impact to businesses and residents of the area, she added.

“The city has done a wonderful job restoring it, making it look wonderful, people go down there they play volleyball, kids go out and play in the park,” she said.

“People from the park will come up to the restaurant and have dinner, so it’s sad that part of the park is lost.”

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Front Street has been closed to traffic while crews battle the fire.

TransLink says SkyTrain service between Columbia and Scott Road Stations was also suspended due to the fire.

The cause of the fire remains unclear.

More to come…

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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