Maple Ridge fire department and bylaws conducted inspection last summer. (THE NEWS/files)

City starts safety improvements at Maple Ridge camp

Following on recent decision in Supreme Court

Maple Ridge is starting to implement the orders handed down by the B.C. Supreme Court on Feb. 8, allowing the city to improve safety at Anita Place Tent City.

Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue had a walk through of the camp on Thursday to map out the location of all tents and structures.

“The next steps will address the proximity of tents to the fences and each other, removal of accelerants, electrical connections and other materials that pose a fire safety risk on the site,” the city said in a news release Thursday.

That was followed on Friday by city workers putting up a security fence around the camp, with the intent of controlling access, according to a news release from the Alliance Against Displacement.

“City bylaw officers have told camp residents that they plan to give 24 notice of intent to enter and inspect tents for violations of the fire order, and to begin to exercise their powers under the verification order,” said Ivan Drury with the Alliance.

The Alliance claims that bylaw officers also rounded up pet dogs that were in the camp and says that’s not part of the court order.

The court order allows the city to ask residents to provide identification and if they don’t have any, agree to be photographed. If they refuse, they could be kicked out of the camp on 223rd Street, just off Lougheed Highway in downtown Maple Ridge.

According to the city, identifying residents will determine who needs housing and any additional support services. “This will also assist city staff in identifying and removing any unoccupied tents or unclaimed materials from the site.”

The court’s decision did not grant the city’s request to have the shacks removed from tent city.

The camp is currently in its second winter.

Pivot Legal Society, which represents the camp, said it’s appealing some of the orders such as the enforcement orders and the verification and exclusion order.

However, Justice Grauer in his ruling said, “the need for enforcement is clear on the evidence.”

The city has tried many times to implement the safety conditions agreed on earlier, but those haven’t worked because of the “less-than-full cooperation by the occupants … and the inability to resolve the root problem of inadequate shelter,” Grauer wrote.

But fire hazards remain in the camp, Grauer said. “It is time now to deal with that risk and hopefully for Maple Ridge and British Columbia, to address also the risks of homelessness and hypothermia that will continue.”

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