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Monday fire may have been set, says Coquitlam fire chief

An empty house in Maillardville suffered extensive fire damage Monday night. The building was to be renovated by a developer planning to build apartments in the area. It is not known if the house can be saved. - DESIGAN NAIDOO PHOTO
An empty house in Maillardville suffered extensive fire damage Monday night. The building was to be renovated by a developer planning to build apartments in the area. It is not known if the house can be saved.
— image credit: DESIGAN NAIDOO PHOTO

A heritage building in Maillardville that developers planned to restore suffered extensive damage after fire ripped through the structure Monday night.

The building was boarded up but Coquitlam Fire Chief Tony Delmonico said it was no secret that homeless and young people had occupied the structure since a similar fire at the same location last year.

“With those older buildings, you get transient people, you get kids in there,” he said. “I am not sure the fencing was keeping them out.”

Because of a warm-weather inversion, Delmonico said smoke could be seen as far away as Port Moody. Calls about came in from across the Tri-Cities, he said, tying up crews who had to check each address for potential fire.

“It kept us pretty busy,” he said.

Firefighters believe the blaze started in the back of the home on the lower floor. By the time crews arrived, flames were punching through the roof of the structure.

The damage was extensive and Delmonico said any efforts to restore the building would have to be re-evaluated.

“It was a heritage building,” he said. “You hate to see the loss of those buildings, especially down in Maillardville.”

Because all electrical service was cut to the property, Delmonico believes the fire may have been deliberately set. The Coquitlam RCMP is also investigating.

It’s the second time fire has broken out in the building. Emergency officials were called out to the structure last year to respond to another suspicious fire.

In the spring of 2011, architect Matthew Cheng told Coquitlam’s land use committee that Guang Xin Development Ltd. owned the properties across from Place des Arts.

The developer was planning to restore the structure and build 74 multi-family French-Canadian-style apartments in three- and four-storey buildings around the heritage house.

The building first appears in government land assessment documents in 1913, when the structure was valued at $350.

The heritage home was originally a mushroom barn on Begin Street owned by Tom Allard. The next owner, Tom Filiatrault, a pipefitter at Fraser Mills and a Coquitlam alderman, moved it to its present location at 1123 Brunette Ave. and turned it into a fourplex with a barbershop.

According to the inventory records, it was called the Red House because of its “boxcar red” colour.

gmckenna@tricitynews.com

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