Bargain hunters, keen thrifters and other regulars for whom the Peace Arch Hospital Auxiliary’s Superfluity Shop has become a way of life were in for a shock last week.
A fire that broke out early Thursday morning has forced the indefinite closure of the popular thrift store, at 15163 Prospect Ave.
The good news, manager Patricia Johnston told Peace Arch News, is that White Rock firefighters caught the blaze – which appears to have started among unsolicited donated items left in the back lane – before it could spread from the back wall and a portion of the roof.
The bad news is the store will have to remain closed while restoration contractors inspect the premises and assess the damage.
“They sound optimistic, so I’m hoping it’ll be open again soon,” Johnston said.
White Rock Fire Chief Phil Lemire said alert residents called in around 3:15 a.m., after noticing a glow from the lane reflected in surrounding windows.
Firefighters arrived to find flames had breached the back wall and soffit (external roof ceiling) and were into the roof’s truss space, he said.
“That was a little bit tense, but fortunately they prevented it getting any further,” Lemire said. “They did a good job – we had three units on the scene and a good swift response went a long way to minimizing the extent of the damage.”
He said the cause of the fire is “undetermined but suspicious in origin” – given that it appears to have started among donated goods left at the rear of the store.
“That’s not to say it couldn’t have been caused by a cigarette discarded by someone going through the stuff.”
Lemire’s initial assessment was that the concrete two-storey building had received minimal damage and a “a bit of light smoke damage inside.”
Johnston said the fire highlights a problem common to all thrift stores – people leaving unsolicited donations at rear doors after hours when the items can’t be taken in and stored safely.
“We can’t operate without donations, but we do ask that people leave them during business hours… If you do leave donations after hours, they are subject to theft or problems like this.
“It’s a real shame – because it’s been the auxiliary’s big money-maker for years. Our auxiliary has made over $10 million since 1948 and it’s enabled the hospital to buy a lot of equipment.”
The closure also has an impact on regular Superfluity shoppers, who are like family, she said.
Lemire noted he observed many of the regular clientele arriving when damage assessment was being done later on Thursday.
“The store certainly has quite the following,” he said.
Linda Kelly, of South Surrey, is among many who were turned away by the ‘closed’ sign on the door on Thursday. She was relieved to hear the next day that damage was not extensive.
“I’m a regular shopper at Superfluity,” she said. “I always like to support it whenever I can because it makes such a big difference in the community – and it’s a real community in itself.”