News

Arson all but ruled out in Remy blaze

It's looking less and less likely that an arsonist was responsible for the devastating fire at the 188-unit Remy condo project on Cambie Road that burned to the ground in dramatic fashion early last month.

Dana Westermark, president of Oris Consulting Ltd., told The Richmond Review Tuesday that videotaped security footage shows nobody entering the construction site or leaving it in the time between when worked wrapped up for the day and the fire started around 10:45 p.m. on Tuesday, May 3.

As well, a sniffer dog that searches for the presence of accelerants, turned up nothing.

Investigators have also searched for devices that may have started the fire, but that has proven fruitless.

"On the one hand, it's a relief," Westermark said of the preliminary finding that arson was not to blame. "It would have been very upsetting knowing if somebody had done that."

The footage has been viewed by all the individuals investigating the fire, including Richmond Fire-Rescue, though no official public statements have yet been made about the cause of the blaze that destroyed the $60 million construction site.

The fire burned so hot that it consumed a cast iron pipe, Westermark said. Cast iron melts at about 1,200 degrees Celsius.

Westermark was hopeful that within the next two weeks, he'll have a definitive idea of when work can begin to clear up the site and for construction to resume.

Thanks to the cooperation of all the trades involved in the project, Westermark said when work begins anew, additional manpower will be added to the work force.

At the time of the fire, that crew numbered 200, he noted.

Depending on when work starts again, the average length of delay that buyers will see is expected to be in the four-to-six month range, he said.

Westermark clarified that some units may be delayed by eight or nine months, others won't be delayed at all, and still others may actually be completed ahead of schedule.

He said he was very fortunate that the trades, lenders, partners including the city and the province have been so helpful in dealing with the aftermath of the fire.

Though arson is seemingly ruled out, Westermark refused to speculate on the potential cause of the blaze.

Westermark said it's entirely possible that the cause of the Remy fire may never be known.

Such was the case with Richmond developer Charan Sethi, who went through something similar on Oct. 1, 2008 when his four-storey residential project in Surrey burned down.

Last month's spectacular fire at the Remy could be seen from downtown Vancouver, and drew many people to come to Richmond for a look, and hundreds of other locals out of their homes.

The multi-alarm blaze required local fire crews to call for assistance from Vancouver to ensure there were enough fire trucks in Richmond to deal with other fires.

The Remy fire sent huge chunks of glowing cinders hundreds of metres into the air, landing in areas as far away as Richmond Nature Park where one the size of a lunch pale came to rest.

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