Arsonist torches historic building

Main floor of Grand Forks’ 103-year-old municipal building extensively damaged.

(From left) Dale Heriot

(From left) Dale Heriot

Grand Forks City Hall was struck on Sept. 19 by Fire. Grand Forks Fire Rescue responded to a call at approximately 5:30 a.m. and found the main floor of city hall engulfed in flames.

“When I got here, about four minutes after the initial call, fire was visible through the front door,” said Kevin McKinnon, deputy fire chief. “It was mainly contained to the front part of the building. We had our first truck on scene about two minutes after I arrived and had a crew putting water on the fire immediately. Fortunately, the fire was contained to the front lobby of the area.”

McKinnon said he did not think there was much water damage in the basement where many of the city’s historical documents are kept.

“There’s a bit of water down there, but our guys were pretty sparse with their use of water,” he said. “I’ve been downstairs and it doesn’t look to my untrained eye—in terms of archival material— I’m not an expert by any stretch. It doesn’t too bad down there. The fire did not spread there.”

As a result of the fire, city hall is closed. Phone calls to city hall are being rerouted to the Public Works office. Staff has set up temporary operations at the Public Works office at 130 Industrial Drive. “We are shocked by this incident and we are extremely thankful that no one was hurt,” said Grand Forks Mayor Brian Taylor.

We are awaiting further information as the proper authorities complete their investigation. In the meantime, we are making arrangements to ensure our staff are briefed and alternate arrangements are made for our customers.” Taylor and city CAO Doug Allin were both attending the Union of B.C. Municipalities Conference in Vancouver, but cancelled all meetings and flew back to Grand Forks.

A man has been charged in connection with the fire. He was to appear in Nelson Court on Tuesday charged with break and enter, arson, possession of incendiary materials and possession of break in instruments. A publication ban has been placed on the case. Members of Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment general investigation team were also on site helping with the investigation, said Grand Forks RCMP Staff Sgt. Jim Harrison.

Before investigators were able to enter the building, a structural engineer had to check out the building.

“That has been done,” said Harrison. “The structural engineer advised us that it was safe to enter the building to carry on the investigation.”

There were no injuries.

“There was nobody in the building at the time,” he said.

Harrison also said that the fire was not caused by a bomb and that there is no link to the hotel fires from 2012.

The Grand Forks RCMP is seeking the public’s assistance in this investigation and ask that anyone with information regarding the fire contact the Grand Forks RCMP at 250-442-8288. Those wishing to provide information anonymously, are encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers at Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, leaving a tip online at www.crimestoppers.net

“At this point, we’re advising that we have no reason to believe that public safety is at danger,” said Harrison