Fire at DTES sidewalk tent city confirms fire chief’s worst fears – BC

It was the Vancouver Fire Chief’s worst fear when she ordered the immediate removal of buildings from a growing sidewalk tent city in downtown Eastside last month. It was realized early Saturday.

A tent caught fire around 6:00 a.m. outside the Brandiz Hotel SRO along 100 blocks of East Hastings Street.

“There’s about 180 to 200 people living here, it’s way too close,” said resident Kevin Purdy. “That’s what the fire chief said.”

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Vancouver Fire Chief orders evacuation of DTES tent city, citing a “catastrophic” safety hazard

On Saturday morning, Purdy, who has been cleaning up rubbish for the Brandiz Hotel for eight years, was cleaning up the remains of someone’s burned belongings.

“It was just a loud explosion and then a bunch of smoke and firefighters,” said Justin Chipman, who heard the fire from his room. “It could have let mate come into the kingdom.”

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Chipman believes a propane tank in the tent may have fueled the explosion he heard.

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The Hastings Street tent city remains intact despite the deadline

No one was injured, according to Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, who said the cause is being investigated and it’s unclear if propane, butane or other combustible materials were involved.

“There was no one in that tent. As far as I could tell, it was literally full of junk,” Chipman said. “It was a tent full of rubbish that they then let burn.”

Purdy has lived in the DTES for 20 years, and with low-income tenants already displaced by three major building fires in as many months, he and other residents want to take action to make the area safe for all.

“There’s a ticking time bomb down here,” Purdy told Global News on Saturday.

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Tent dismantling in downtown Eastside has been postponed as the city tries to find storage facilities

When Vancouver Fire Chief Karen Fry issued an order on July 25 to immediately remove tents and buildings from the East Hastings section near major roads, she warned that a potential fire “would be catastrophic, endangering lives and Hundreds of much-needed units would endanger housing.”

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Two people died when a massive fire engulfed the Winters Hotel in Gastown on April 11, displacing dozens of SRO residents.

Two months later, a man died after a battery overload caused an explosion at the Empress Hotel SRO on the 200 block of East Hastings.

On July 6, Street Church and an adjacent two-story building were destroyed in a fire in the 100 block of East Hastings.

“It has the potential to get really out of hand if it keeps going like this,” Purdy said.

Purdy said safety concerns, including fires and violence, have escalated with the sidewalk tent city’s recent growth.

“An elderly friend of mine got kicked because there was no space to drive his wheelchair,” he told Global News. “A 70-year-old man in a wheelchair doesn’t need to be attacked if he has nowhere to go and is just trying to get through.”

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While Purdy and other DTES residents are doing their best to clear debris and keep the sidewalk clear, he said the ongoing problem needed to be addressed.

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“I feel sorry for the campers, but they need to have a more organized spot than the sidewalk,” Purdy said.

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© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc. Fire at DTES sidewalk tent city confirms fire chief’s worst fears – BC


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