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Fire cleanup delayed by toxic substances
Although the investigation into what caused the blaze that destroyed three Downtown New Westminster historic buildings Oct. 10 continues, the site has been turned over to its owners and the insurance companies for cleanup.
It may be a while, however, before that can be done, said city spokesman Blair Fryer.
There is some contamination, most notably asbestos, which was commonly used in renovations from the 1970s to 1990s, that need to be disposed of through remediation.
“This is not unusual for a site that’s been affected by a fire like this,” said Fryer.
The E.L. Lewis building at Columbia and McKenzie streets, where the fire began in the early morning hours, was built in 1904 while the other two were constructed in 1899 following the Great Fire of 1898.
The building facing Front Street is still standing but is structurally unsound and will be taken down once the remediation is complete, said Fryer.
He added that along with the asbestos, chemicals involved in wood preservation and plastics will also have to be taken out before the rubble is cleared away.
“One of the barriers to cleaning out the site is you have to wait a significant amount of time for it to cool so it’s safe to remove material and that’s normally about two weeks,” said Fryer.
“There are specific protocols that need to be done with the site.”