Flames engulf an under-construction building near condos in White Rock's Five Corners district last May 15.

City of White Rock reveals bill for Five Corners fire

Costs of crews, water from neighbouring Surrey total $107,000 for May 15 blaze

Six months after a devastating White Rock fire left close to 100 residents homeless, city officials say the cost of needing Surrey water and fire crews to help fight it was $107,000.

White Rock fire Chief Phil Lemire said in an interview Tuesday morning that just $2,604 of the bill – “nothing outrageous” – was for the additional water.

Lemire said he received the bill in July.

In a conference call Tuesday with Peace Arch News and city communications manager Farnaz Farrokhi, Lemire said he made the request for mutual aid shortly after arriving at the fire scene on May 15. It resulted in Surrey fire crews lending assistance for 17 of the “33 or 38 hours” that White Rock firefighters spent battling the blaze.

The fire – later determined to have been intentionally set – broke out at the Ocean Ridge condominium complex, in the city’s Five Corners district, just after 5 a.m. Residents of the building’s 60 residential units were evacuated; ground-floor businesses and the Star of the Sea Hall were impacted; and a citywide boil-water advisory was instituted, remaining in place for three days.

The advisory was put in place as the city’s water reserves were depleted by the firefighting efforts, which city manager Dan Bottrill said days later used more than 400 litres of water per second for six hours straight. The city’s water system, he told PAN at the time, was built for “more like 212 litres per second, for a peak period of about 2.6 hours.”

Water pressure dropped throughout the city – including at Peace Arch Hospital, which city emails obtained by a resident through a freedom-of-information request confirm lost flow to its three upper floors – within a few hours, and White Rock had to tap into Surrey’s water supply via two connections on 16 Avenue.

The day’s water shortage has been the source of much criticism in the months since, with many questioning the city’s capacity to fight such a blaze.

Farrokhi said in the interview that ongoing work on the city’s water utility will boost that capacity by 1.55 million litres by early February; providing in total enough for a population of “roughly 30,000 people.”

Lemire noted that the expansion efforts, including construction of a reservoir on Oxford Street, were underway prior to the fire. There have been no specific requests to adjust infrastructure as a result of the fire, he said.

Lemire described the $107,000 bill for mutual aid as a reasonable one, given the situation.

“When you look at the amount of resources we utilized, that’s the intent of mutual aid,” he said.

“This was probably the largest fire in the city’s history, and you had a very large footprint. We were dealing with three separate buildings. When you have a fire of this magnitude that starts on two different ends of a building this size, that takes resources.

“As far as how it was dealt with and being able to get resources, those pieces, they worked.”

Lemire said he could not comment on certain aspects of the fire, due to the ongoing police investigation.

Asked why the bill was not shared with the public earlier, Farrokhi said the police investigation prevented the city from disclosing information.

Lead investigator, White Rock RCMP Cpl. Michelle Thiessen, told PAN Tuesday that she, too, has little information that she can share publicly, including if any suspects have been identified.

She did say that two investigators are working on the file, leads are being followed and “the investigation is proceeding.”

“It’s a priority, obviously,” Thiessen said. “There’s so many victims from the fire, we want to get it solved as quickly as possible.

“That being said, these types of investigations take time. We’re going to take our time and do it properly.”

In the meantime, one of the residents who was displaced by the fire said she learned Monday that city permits needed to start the rebuild on the Ocean Ridge have been approved. (However, after press deadline Tuesday, Farrokhi told PAN that the Ocean Ridge permit had not yet been issued.)

Hours before receiving the news Monday, Sandi Dick told PAN the wait was frustrating. She said the residents were told in September that the rebuild, once underway, would take 287 days.

“We were told there would be a roof on it by the end of September. There’s not even a fourth floor on it,” Dick said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

White Rock RCMP are searching for Richard John Lewis, who is wanted on warrants for assault and uttering threats. (RCMP handout)
White Rock RCMP searching for wanted man

Richard John Lewis is wanted on warrants for assault, uttering threats

(Photo: Twitter@SurreyRCMP)
Surrey Mounties, pet owners, bracing for Halloween

Last year the Surrey RCMP received 147 fireworks complaints on Diwali and 121 on Halloween

(Delta Police Department photo)
Delta police investigating after another teen girl followed in Tsawwassen

Police say a man in a burgundy car approached teen girls on at least two, possibly three occasions

partial graphic used in "Get Serious" campaign by Surrey business groups.
‘Get Serious’ message about COVID pushed by Surrey business groups fearing ‘economic shutdown’

‘Different social media messages will be sent out daily with significant messaging…’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

The B.C. Teacher Regulation Branch has issued a decision about the actions of an elementary school teacher in Langley. (Langley Advance Times files)
Langley elementary teacher suspended for grabbing, shoving, yelling at kids

Roxann Rojas will lose her legal authority to teach for two weeks from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2020

Most Read