Skip to content

Sentencing in Five Corners arson case set for Nov. 14

Oct. 12 hearing included statements from victims, perpetrator
Sentencing for James Adrian Dyer, who pleaded guilty to three counts in connection with the arson fire at Five Corners in 2016, has been set for Nov. 14 in Surrey Provincial Court. (Teresa Frederick file photo)

A new date for sentencing has been set for the man who pleaded guilty to setting the 2016 fire that caused millions of dollars in damage to White Rock’s Five Corners neighbourhood.

James Adrian Dyer, 24, of Surrey is scheduled for sentencing on Nov. 14 in Surrey Provincial Court.

The date was set following a delayed sentencing hearing on Oct. 12, in which both victim impact statements were received, and Dyer read his own statement.

A joint submission from the Crown and defense counsels recommended a two-year conditional sentence, including house arrest for the first 12 months, to be followed by two years on probation.

Dyer pleaded guilty on June 2 to three charges, including ‘arson damaging property’ and ‘arson in relation to inhabited property’ some seven years after the incident.

The early-morning fire left 100 people homeless, many of them fleeing with little more than the clothes on their backs, and destroyed ground-level business premises as well as causing damage to nearby Star of the Sea Hall.

Firefighting efforts placed such a strain on White Rock’s water supply that there was a subsequent three-day boil-water advisory for the city plus a $107,000 bill for the use of Surrey’s firefighters and water (crews had to tap into Surrey’s supply for more than six hours).

READ MORE:Sentencing set in 2016 White Rock Five-Corners arson fire

Laura Cornale, former owner of Laura’s Coffee Corner, which occupied a ground-floor retail space in the Ocean Ridge development on the south side of Pacific Avenue (destroyed in the fire, but since rebuilt) said she was dismayed at the suggested sentence.

“I felt like a popped balloon, actually,” said Cornale.

“The day brought back a lot of anxiety for me, a lot of things I thought I had dealt with and put behind me.”

She estimates that the fire cost her family alone at least $125,000.

“I was just lucky to have had insurance,” she added.

Cornale, who recently sold her business, relocated the café to a former grocery store location at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Fir Street, while reconstruction of Ocean Ridge continued for some three years.

She received praise – and the 2017 Sources Community Hero Award – for her leadership and fundraising efforts on behalf of victims in the immediate aftermath of the fire, and was able to establish a thriving business at the new location.

But she noted she is aware of some former residents of Ocean Ridge “who have moved four or five times since the fire and still don’t feel settled.”

“They’ve had to deal with all the PTSD of that, they’ve had to spend every nickel and dime they had.”

She has heard estimates that costs related to the fire have reached as high as some $60 million.

“And now this guy is going to walk away from this with ... house arrest?”

Cornale said she was “in two minds” after hearing Dyer’s statement.

“He showed remorse, he was crying,” she said.

“I kind of blocked it out – it’s a little too late.”

She said that Dyer related to the court that drugs and alcohol were a factor; that he didn’t have any residence at the time of the incident and was going through family issues.

“He had quite a bit of family support at the hearing. It’s a shame that, at 18, he didn’t have the guidance he should have had.

“But, ultimately, he made that choice to cause that much destruction.”

She said that only one business owner and one resident were present at the hearing, and that other impact statements remained sealed, which also disappointed her.

“I was like ‘where is everybody – where is all the support?’” she said.

“Where was city council, why wasn’t the mayor there? It would have been nice to have some representative of the city there, and it would have been nice to hear what was said in the victim impact statements.”

About the Author: Alex Browne

Read more