Blackened, charred support beams are pretty much all that remain of the Miniature Railway train station in Stanley Park after a fire swept through the wooden structure early Friday morning.
The area where riders load and unload was completely gutted by the two-alarm fire Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services describes as “suspicious” and “deliberately set.” A 911 call reporting the fire was made at midnight Thursday.
In a news release Friday morning, Capt. Gabe Roder with Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services said two firefighters were injured while fighting the blaze and treated at St. Paul’s Hospital for what’s described as “minor injuries.” Three nearby trees were also damaged by the fire, but the train and the track are operational.
Vision Vancouver park board chair Sarah Blyth said details of the fire hadn’t been released at the time of the Courier’s interview with her early Friday morning, but she added it was expected the train would be running by Saturday.
Blyth said the timing of the fire is particularly sad because it comes just one day after the opening celebration for the Klahowya Village First Nations exhibit, which includes the Spirit Catcher train ride. Blyth would not speculate as to whether the timing was suspicious, seeing as the display was widely covered by the media just a day before. An artist at the scene, Wade Baker, told the Courier some high-end pieces of art were stored in the station overnight for security. Baker’s work was untouched.
As reported in the Courier, Wednesday, June 20, Vancouver police and firefighters are ramping up a public relations campaign to ensure residents don’t become a victim of an arson this summer.
The campaign comes after firefighters responded to three suspected arson fires on the West Side Tuesday and more than 40 arsons in the first five months of this year.
“We won’t say that there is a firebug on the loose, but we are saying there have been a number of deliberately set fires that have occurred in the city,” Roder said Wednesday at a press conference. “At this point in time, we can’t piece any of those together, nor are we suggesting that those fires are connected.”
Last year, firefighters responded to 151 arsons in the city, including a spate of 24 arsons on the West Side. A suspect has been arrested in connection with two of the 24 fires. The 151 represented about 32 per cent of fires in Vancouver last year and don’t include the 71 set during the Stanley Cup riot on June 15, 2011. The 151 fires caused more than $7 million in property damage. About 80 per cent of the arsons occurred between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m.