Firefighters have descended on the heart of Chinatown around 5:30 p.m. Sunday evening where crews say a suspicious fire was started at the Chinese Cultural Centre.
The building takes up almost an entire block along Pender Street between Carrall and Columbia Streets according to Vancouver Assistant Fire Chief Ken Gemmill.
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“there’s a smell of smoke and a dark haze coming from the rear alley of the south side of the building. They are able to gain access. One of the buildings is vacant just beside the Chinese Cultural Center. That’s where they thought the fire was because that’s where the heaviest smoke was,” Gemmill explained.
“It has a lot of store fronts, lots of E-S-L student centers. There doesn’t appear to be anyone injured, as far as occupants because it’s not a it’s not a habitable building. It’s more of a commercial kind of access building.”
However, Gemmill says one firefighter was taken to hospital after he injured his hand trying to break into the building to find the source of the thick, black smoke.
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The entire operation consisted of around 40 firefighters which closed the surrounding area for hours while fire and police officers investigate the suspected cause of the fire.
“They’ve got some footage and perhaps some people, some some witnesses in the back that saw somebody lighting a fire in the back,” Gemmill added.
However, he says there was more smoke than fire and so crews used a minimal amount of water in order to minimize damage to the iconic building.
“If there is a fire, we don’t want to lose this building. It’s mainly concrete but the ceiling and the wall structure inside is wood and metal.”
Gemmill says this fire marks the third 2nd alarm fire in the area in just over a day.
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