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Headlines from the past: The summer Coquitlam schools got torched

As much as $100,000 in damage was caused by vandals to a former Coquitlam school, with two more schools also hit by arsonists.
Bob Poulton, principal of Walton elementary, surveys the damage after an arson fire at the school in August, 2000. | Don MacKinnon, Tri-City News photo

Stories from Tri-City News headlines of decades past will be a recurring feature as the publication approaches its 40th anniversary in 2024.

The summer of the year 2000 was a hot one for schools in School District 43 (SD43) as vandals torched three buildings in 35 days.

According to the Tri-City News of Wednesday, Aug. 9, Walton elementary school in Coquitlam sustained $100,000 in damage after someone tried to start it on fire.

“There is some clear evidence of an attack on the school, using some devices and perhaps accelerants, such as gasoline. Every indication is it was an arson fire,” the Tri-City News was told.

A dozen firefighters responded to the Aug. 5 blaze. Quick action and some new equipment were credited for putting out the fire quickly and minimizing damage.

The Walton fire was the third Coquitlam school fire that summer as during the Canada Day weekend two other schools were torched.

A fire was set at the former Coronation Park elementary school at around midnight, June 30, damaging the outside walls of two classrooms. At 3:30 a.m., July 1, a fire was set at Banting middle school, destroying two greenhouses.

Several additional schools were hit by vandals that summer, causing damage to windows, lights, a contractor’s trailer and stealing computers.

“I don’t know exactly why anyone is taking out anger on schools,” said then-fire chief Doug Johnson.

“They become a focus from time to time. It’s not as bad as people feel it is. It comes in waves, and you have one or two people responsible for a number of attacks.”

Vandalism still occurs, but it’s rare or taken care of quickly. The school district has set up Vandal Watch, which has a 24-hour tip line: 604-927-7600.

Find out more on the SD43 website.

Among the files of the Tri-City News is coverage of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody councils, local crime, local festivals and events similar to today’s stories you’ll find online and in print on Thursdays.

For a digital version of this week’s paper, visit the Issuu website.