Two separate fires broke out at the same vacant house over the holidays.
Surrey Fire Service Deputy Chief Larry Thomas told The Leader on Wednesday the fires followed an eviction at a property on the corner of 88 Avenue and 134 Street.
The first blaze occurred on Dec. 23.
It’s believed the person who was evicted may have re-entered the home and started a fire in the fireplace to keep warm.
However, the chimney was faulty and a blaze broke out in the attic of the home.
“The fireplace was not properly vented in the attic,” Thomas said. “It was venting all the hot gases into the attic and that’s where the fire started.”
After that incident, Surrey Fire Service contacted the owner, who was out of town, and gained permission to board up the house.
However, someone breached the barriers on Christmas Day and another fire started at 11 p.m.
“The fire was in the attic again,” Thomas said.
The City of Surrey’s fire department has a program of securing homes as soon as it’s discovered they are abandoned.
“We board them up and we will, at some point, require fencing around them,” Thomas said. “But if someone really wants to get in, they’re going to get in.”
The city has a system in place to recover the costs of attending a fire if the owner of the home has failed to keep squatters out.
“Once we’ve attended a place and written orders to comply, we say it’s the owners responsibility to maintain the property in a secure state,” Thomas said.
If the property is occupied by squatters after that, and a blaze takes place, the owner is on the hook for the costs, said Thomas.
“Which is a disincentive for the owner, obviously, because it’s fairly costly for our response,” Thomas said.
Whether or not the owners of the Newton home that caught fire twice will have to pay for the second fire has not yet been determined, Thomas said.
Photos and video by Shane MacKichan