Parks and recreation assistant Rhylie Lee paints faces at the PAACL Fun Fair at the Glenwood Centre on Thursday, Oct. 26. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Parks and recreation assistant Rhylie Lee paints faces at the PAACL Fun Fair at the Glenwood Centre on Thursday, Oct. 26. ELENA RARDON PHOTO

Arson suspected in Glenwood Centre fire

Blaze interrupts PAACL Community Living Month fun fair

Port Alberni RCMP are investigating a fire that broke out at Glenwood Centre on Thursday as arson.

The incident happened during the Community Living Month annual fun fair, and nearly 300 children, families and adults with developmental disabilities were in the building at the time.

The fire started in a garbage can inside a changeroom on the east side of the building, Port Alberni Fire Dept. Chief Kelly Gilday said. “It appears some material was ignited.”

Black smoke began billowing out of a vent over the door of the changerooms shortly after 5 p.m., midway through the fun fair.

READ: Fire forces evacuation at Glenwood Centre

Program staff quickly evacuated the nearly 300 people who were in the building enjoying the Community Living Month fun fair. “They evacuated nicely and the building was vacant when we got there,” Gilday said.

An automatic aid call immediately went out to neighbouring volunteer fire departments, which is standard protocol, Gilday explained. “A large structure like that, it’s an automatic mutual aid call,” he said. “Those ones, you need the extra staff, you need the extra people.”

Although the blaze wasn’t large, it filled the community centre with smoke, meaning firefighters had to spend several hours ventilating the building. “There was a lot of smoke inside the building,” Gilday said. “(There is) heavy smoke damage to the changeroom and washroom area.”

The file has been turned over to the RCMP, he said.

Port Alberni Association of Community Living executive director Craig Summer commended the staff members at the event for evacuating the building quickly and helping to reassure people that they were safe.

“Some people were upset and we had some anxiety,” he said. “It took a while for them to be debriefed afterward.”

Some of the adults had been dropped off by their caregivers, so staff members had to call and make sure they had rides.

“I think all the organizers did a really good job of getting people safely and calmly out of the building,” he said. “It could have been quite chaotic because there were several individuals in wheelchairs, sebveral clients with anxiety.”

The fun fair is held every October to celebrate Community Living Month, and to bring awareness of community living and community inclusion to the public, he added.

The Alberni Energizers had been raising funds through hotdog sales for their participation in Operation Track Shoes, an annual track meet, Summer said. The fire meant they lost about half an hour’s worth of concession sales. Otherwise, the event wasn’t a fundraiser, it was more of an awareness event.

One of the biggest disappointments to PAACL members, Summer said, was that the cakes from the cake walk were ruined. It was the most popular event at the fun fair, he added.

“All the cakes are either made or donated by various people,” he said.

The PAACL has celebrated its 60th anniversary with several different events this year, and will culminate with a Christmas party at the Best Western Barclay Plus Hotel on Dec. 8. This event will also be open to the public.

editor@albernivalleynews.com

Just Posted

Two ambulances and a medevac helicopter are on scene at Taylor River Flats rest area on Highway 4 due to a serious motor vehicle incident. (PHOTO COURTESY MAGGIE BROWN)
Highway 4 reopens after accident at Taylor River Flats

Multi-vehicle crash had closed highway to west coast

Robert Gunn of Alberni Climate Action loads garbage discovered in the Alberni Inlet around Cous Creek into his canoe during a recent ocean shoreline cleanup. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Alberni Climate Action group creates NIC scholarship

Students attending college full time may apply through NIC

The Rollin Art Centre is holding children’s art camps this summer. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
ARTS AROUND: Celebrate art in the garden

Rollin Art Centre will host art event on Saturday, June 26

The King Edward Liquor Store sponsored the Alberni Golf Club’s event on June 13. From left to right are Ken Porteous (manager of the King Edward Liquor Store) and Alberni Golf Club Members Don MacGowan, John Robbins and Wayne Cheveldave. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
ALBERNI GOLF: Doug Cheetham records hole in one

Next Sunday is an open day with the best gross and the best net up for grabs

Francine Cunningham is an award-winning Indigenous writer, artist and educator. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Electric Mermaid online event hosts panel of Indigenous writers

Event takes place through Char’s Landing in Port Alberni

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., center left, reaches over to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., joined by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus as they celebrate the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act that creates a new federal holiday to commemorate June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought the news of freedom to enslaved Black people after the Civil War, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 17, 2021. It’s the first new federal holiday since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was created in 1983. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden to sign bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday

New American stat marks the nation’s end of slavery

Athena and Venus, ready to ride. (Zoe Ducklow - Sooke News Mirror)
Goggling double-dog motorcycle sidecar brings smiles to B.C. commuters

Athena and Venus are all teeth and smiles from their Harley-Davidson sidecar

Kimberly Bussiere and other laid-off employees of Casino Nanaimo have launched a class-action lawsuit against the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
B.C. casino workers laid off during pandemic launch class-action lawsuit

Notice of civil claim filed in Supreme Court of B.C. in Nanaimo against Great Canadian Gaming

A float plane crashed into the waters near Painters Lodge in Campbell River on Thursday morning. Photo by Alistair Taylor / Campbell River Mirror
Float plane crashes into water near Campbell River

Pilot uninjured, plane hit sandbar while landing

John Kromhoff with some of the many birthday cards he received from ‘pretty near every place in the world’ after the family of the Langley centenarian let it be known that he wasn’t expecting many cards for his 100th birthday. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Cards from all over the world flood in for B.C. man’s 100th birthday

An online invitation by his family produced a flood of cards to mark his 100th birthday

FILE – Nurse Iciar Bercian prepares a shot at a vaccine clinic for the homeless in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, June 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
B.C. scientists to study effectiveness of COVID vaccines in people with HIV

People living with HIV often require higher doses of other vaccines

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read