On September 13, 2020 a fire broke out on the timber wharf section of Westminster Pier Park. The fire is contained but continues to smoulder underneath the deck surface. New Westminster Fire and Rescue Services continue to extinguish the fire.
Update: September 24, 2020 - 6:00 pm
Fire Chief Tim Armstrong has officially confirmed that the fire at the Timber Wharf section of Westminster Pier Park is now fully extinguished.
Chief Armstrong would like to thank the crews that have been working tirelessly since the evening of September 13th fighting this difficult fire. A special thanks to the community, as well as outside agencies and other City departments that came together to support this operation. Work at the site will now transition to a remediation and cleanup phase.
Front Street will remain closed throughout the weekend and is expected to reopen to vehicle traffic early next week. The Front Street Parkade and the remaining section of Westminster Pier Park will remain closed until further notice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the fire still burning and when will it be extinguished completely?
New Westminster Fire and Rescue Services have confirmed that the fire burning in the Timber Wharf section of Westminster Pier Park is now fully extinguished.
What is the cause of the fire?
The investigation into how the fire started is ongoing. The New Westminster Police Department arrested a male on September 15, 2020 for arson related offences in connection to the fire. The NWPD Major Crime Unit is continuing to gather evidence and anticipates forwarding a report to Crown Counsel for consideration of formal charges. Anyone with information about the fire is asked to contact the New Westminster Police Department at 604-525-5411.
How is the fire affecting air quality?
Metro Vancouver ended the fine particulate matter Air Quality Advisory on September 19, 2020. Air quality has improved significantly due to cleaner marine air flowing into the region.
Are the creosote pilings creating hazardous fumes?
The pier pilings are covered by creosote. Creosote is a wood preservative made up of coal tar and other chemicals. Short term exposure to the burning of creosote can cause respiratory irritation; long-term exposure is not currently a concern, as this typically refers to exposure over years, not days or weeks.
What will happen to the WOW Westminster art installation?
Fire crews and City engineers worked from the onset of the fire to secure and save the iconic WOW Westminster public art installation. Unfortunately, despite best efforts, the timber wharf structure that supports the W is significantly compromised, and the connection points to the art piece are also damaged to the point that the piece could not be removed safely. The W has now been dismantled and removed from the site.
How will the fire impact the marine environment?
We do not yet know the extent of the damage to the marine environment or remediation that will be required. We are working with the Ministry of Environment and environmental consultants to perform structural and environmental investigations during the recovery and remediation phases.
When will access be available to the Front Street Mews?
Access to the Front Street Mews has now been restored to vehicle traffic.
When will Front Street fully reopen?
Front Street is expected to reopen to vehicle traffic early next week.
When will the rest of Westminster Pier Park reopen?
It is still too early in the investigation process to determine when the park will reopen. As soon as investigations are complete and the new portion of Westminster Pier Park has been assessed and determined to be safe, the park will reopen. Updates will be provided as more information is available.
How is the City supporting homeless and vulnerable populations?
The City is working with BC Housing to augment emergency shelter capacity, which is challenging given the COVID-19 pandemic and requirements related to physical distancing. BC Housing has operationalized the Cliff Block, which is providing up to 15 additional shelter beds. Currently, there are 71 emergency shelter beds and 188 supportive housing units addressing the needs of the homeless in New Westminster. The City continues to work with its faith-based and non-profit partners to address the needs of at-risk and vulnerable populations, including those who are homeless, through expanded access to food security programming, information and portable toilets.