On July 9 at around 11:30 a.m., the New Westminster Fire Rescue was dispatched to their fourth fire in 10 days at the abandoned Woodlands Hospital site that once housed a school for troubled children.
The building was built in 1878 and had been vacant since 1996. In 2004, it was declared a heritage site. The previous three fires were relatively minor fires, but this one would be the last fire in this historic structure.
As Battalion 1 arrived on scene, one wing was well involved in fire. It was immediately called a defensive fire, and no firefighters were to enter the building. Several hand lines as well as a deck gun from Engine 3 were put into service minutes into the fire.
It was quickly escalated to a fourth alarm which brought all apparatus from New Westminster and off duty personnel as well as an engine, tower and chief from neighboring Burnaby Fire Department.
At its peak, more than firefighters were battling the blaze. Three surrounding apartment buildings were evacuated as a precaution due to flying embers and smoke conditions.
The fire was deemed suspicious, and the investigation is ongoing. After the fire was extinguished, the building was knocked down as it was unsafe to allow it to stand.
No injuries were reported.