Unattended candles are to blame for last week’s late-night fire that caused extensive damage to a Marine Drive restaurant and apartments, White Rock’s fire chief has confirmed.
While several people at the scene had speculated candles had sparked the blaze at 14881 Marine Dr., a closer look at the charred mess the next day left no doubt, Phil Lemire told Peace Arch News Friday afternoon.
“Candles that were left unattended… our investigation substantiated that,” Lemire said.
Firefighters were alerted to flames just before 11 p.m. last Wednesday. Four suites above Cosmos GreekRestaurant, fronting Marine Drive, were burned. The restaurant and other apartments in the building – which was home to more than two dozen residents – suffered fire and smoke damage.
Lemire said the resident of the suite where the fire began was home at the time.
Two of the restaurant’s owners told PAN that they, too, were in the building when the fire alarm went off.
Georgia Theodosakis said she and her husband Demetre have yet to see the extent of the damage to the restaurant, which has been a part of White Rock for more than 50 years (initially as a steakhouse, then asCosmos for the last 44 years).
Christina Zambus, who bought her sister’s share in the restaurant in 1991, said she got her first glimpse of the damage Monday, through the business’s front windows. She said it reminded her of White Rock’s flood in June1999 that resulted in a three-month closure to rebuild.
“It was very sad to look at,” Zambus said, noting she and her husband George – who were in Hawaii when the fire occurred – were to take their first steps inside the building, and begin an inventory of the losses, Tuesday morning.
She said she has no animosity for how the fire started.
“We can’t blame (the resident). It was an accident,” she said.
Lemire said the restaurant will require “significant repairs.”
Residents of the suites in the two storeys above were assisted in retrieving some of their belongings Thursday afternoon, but it will be “some time” before they can go home to stay, Lemire said, explaining that the west-side damage means fire-exit routes no longer comply with the standards for occupancy.
“On any given floor… you need two ways out. On this building, they’re at either end. You can’t just occupy one side of the building.
“It’s not going to be a few days or a period of a week.”
Efforts are underway to assist those who were displaced by the fire. A GoFundMe page that was launchedThursday morning had collected $215 by PAN press time Tuesday. As well, current and former staff of Cosmos gathered Monday evening at Kiki’s Restaurant to reminisce, raise funds for the displaced residents and talkabout next steps.
“We just want to help for the people upstairs,” said Bia Zambus, daughter of Christina Zambus. “We’re a business, we’ll do fine. They lost their home… everything.”
Bia Zambus noted that their business was not the only one affected by the fire. Stores east of the restaurant –“up to the new ice cream shop” – also remain closed, she said.
At council Monday, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Coun. Bill Lawrence had praise for emergency responders.
Baldwin told Lemire – who attended council to seek funding to replace a 20-year-old fire truck, which was granted – that firefighters “did an outstanding job putting the fire out.”
“The damage could have been a lot worse,” Baldwin said, noting “emergency services did a wonderful job – I don’t know how they got the bus (for residents) down there so quickly.
“Unfortunately we’re getting too good at this – but fires like this are not something we’re looking forward to.”
The Peninsula Pastors Network’s Emergency Task Force – established in the wake of last May’s fire in FiveCorners – also kicked into gear Thursday.
Pastor Peter Klenner said that so far, fire victims have been offered a meal at First United Church, as well as vouchers to purchase emergency toiletries.
What the exact needs are, however, are still being determined. A letter outlining what is available is being sent out by the city, and, for privacy reasons, it will be up to those affected to reach out if they need help, Klennersaid.
“We just need to find out what the needs are,” he said. “Then we can kick in the appropriate (task force)department.”
Those needing assistance, or wanting to help, may contact Klenner at 604-209-5570.