A fire started for cooking beside an abandoned building spread to the structure, Thursday night.
Multiple fire crews were called out to the former Port Alberni Youth Centre in the 4200-block of Cedarwood Street around 9:30 p.m. on June 9, 2022. An abandoned fire had caught onto the exterior of the building, Port Alberni Fire Dept. deputy fire chief Wes Patterson said.
“It was in an area that’s covered and fairly sheltered,” he said.
Because the structure is large—it’s a former school that has been closed up for a number of years—crews from Cherry Creek, Beaver Creek and Sproat Lake volunteer fire departments also responded to the call, as well as RCMP.
“It was knocked down very quickly. There was some light smoke inside the building so the alarms were ringing at the time,” he added.
The fire was extinguished and the building vented of smoke by 11 p.m.
The shuttered school has been the scene of other small fires, Patterson noted. The building used to be the Port Alberni Youth Centre and at one time housed youth cadet programs as well as storage for the Jane Austen festival. It has been closed for a number of years.
The Port Alberni RCMP has investigated a number of suspicious fires this year, RCMP media relations officer Const. Richard Johns said. There have been a few fires at the Alberni District Fall Fairgrounds, across a large gravel parking lot from the Cedarwood Street building.
“At this time we cannot draw any conclusion that these fires are related or have been started by the same person,” Johns said. He encouraged the public to call the Port Alberni detachment (250-723-2424) if they observe anyone in the vicinity of a suspicious fire.
The Ahousaht First Nation has applied to the City of Port Alberni to build a four-storey affordable housing unit on the Cedarwood Street site. The Citaapi Mahtii Housing Society would like to demolish the former school building in order to build its proposed housing project.
The city donated the land where the former school sits to the housing society.