GF city hall significantly damaged by suspicious fire
Grand Forks RCMP are saying with a “high level of confidence” that the fire at city hall this morning was caused by an arsonist.
The fire and intruder alarms sounded at 5:30 a.m. when the blaze was set and the Grand Forks Fire Rescue arrived on the scene within minutes. They were able to quickly control the fire, but not before the damage was done.
“There is exensive damage to the first floor,” said Staff Sgt. Jim Harrison. “It was basically gutted by the fire.”
RCMP apprehended a suspect for questioning before 6 a.m. and still had him in custody at the time of the interview Thursday afternoon.
Initially, the RCMP had held off their investigation because they wanted to work with a provincial fire marshall. However, one wasn’t available so they started their investigation around 12:30 p.m. with a specialist from the Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment and the Grand Forks fire department.
Harrison said he didn’t know how long the investigation would take.
A preliminary structural inspection deemed the building safe enough for the investigators to enter, but it’s not clear whether or not the building can be salvaged.
Harrison wants to stress that there is absolutely no relationship between the two arson fires that happened in March of 2012 and the fire at city hall today.
A fire at Grand Forks city hall is being deemed suspicious and local RCMP have taken a person of interest into custody.
RCMP and Grand Forks Fire Rescue were called to city hall after a fire and panic alarm went off around 5:30 a.m., Thursday.
The fire was extinguished, but not before significant damage was caused to the main floor of the building.
The damage is extensive enough that it will probably require a structural engineer, speculated Sgt. Darryl Little in a press release. There is a second floor on this building, which makes stability more of a concern.
RCMP have cordoned off the area while they wait for arson investigators.
There were no injuries reported. The Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment general investigation section will be interviewing the person of interest.
While city hall is known for being the office building for city adminitration and council meetings, the downstairs is also home to many of the city’s archives.
Archives start at 1935 and earlier. They include municipal papers, old newspapers and photographs.
“To be honest, I was scared,” said Sue Adrain, of when she found out about the fire. Adrain has an office in the archives department of city hall. There could have been severe water damage to the archives if water had leaked downstairs.
Adrain asked the fire fighters what the archives looked like.
“They said it appeared fine,” she said. “They used the least amount of water as possible.”
She was also told that there was some water dripping by one of the computers and a firefighter put plastic over it.
“That was thoughtful and very much appreciated,” said Adrain.
The archives are an important part of the City’s past and have been popular among people who are researching genealogy.
“We get people that come and stay overnight in Grand Forks,” said Adrain, adding that people get lost in time.
She encourages everyone to come and check out the archives once the building is up and running again.
The building was originally constructed to be a post office in 1913. In 1985 extensive renovations were done. At this point, the building had previously been used to house city staff, which were then moved to the old courthouse — now gallery 2. After the renovations, city staff moved back in.