Fire rips through Downtown Eastside Street Church, latest blaze on East Hastings Street

·2 min read
Residents of the 100-block of East Hastings Street leave with their belongings after a major fire broke out in a neighbouring building, the Downtown Eastside Street Church, around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday. (David P. Ball/CBC - image credit)
Residents of the 100-block of East Hastings Street leave with their belongings after a major fire broke out in a neighbouring building, the Downtown Eastside Street Church, around 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday. (David P. Ball/CBC - image credit)

Vancouver firefighters battled a fire at a Downtown Eastside church on the 100 block of East Hastings Street for hours on Wednesday evening.

Black smoke billowed from the second floor of the two-storey brick building as firefighters used multiple hoses from a crane and the street to attempt to control the blaze, which started around 9:30 p.m. and continued to re-ignite over several hours.

Flames licked through the roof and could be seen consuming the ceiling of the second floor.

Church officials told CBC News there were no residences in the building, but at least one neighbouring single-resident occupancy (SRO) building had to be evacuated due to the fire.

Dozens of firefighters were on scene through much of the evening, just off the intersection of East Hastings Street and Main Street.

 

The Vancouver Street Church services the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, and had just held its 6:30 p.m. worship service and food giveaway hours before the fire broke out in its building.

"I'm devastated," said the church's lead pastor, Christina Dawson. "We outreach to people in the street, the homeless people, the poor people, the alcoholics, the drug addicts, we also feed them food, we give them hot dogs and care packs.

"I'm beside myself."

The area has seen a series of devastating fires in recent months, including one that left two dead at the nearby Winters Hotel and displaced dozens of nearby residents.

A former minister at the church, Jen Allan, said it's a vital part of the Downtown Eastside community.

David P. Ball/CBC
David P. Ball/CBC

"Street Church has been here for 28 years," she said. "For this community, it's a beacon of hope."

At the time of publication there was no word of any injuries.

Vancouver Fire Chief Karen Fry was on scene with crews battling the blaze.

"With heavy smoke damage, it seems to have started in the back of the building," said Fry in an interview at the scene.

"We're trying to evacuate the residential building next door to it. We're working hard to get everybody out of that building and safe away from the smoke."

 

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