The Bella Coola RCMP is investigating the early morning fire on Nov.21, 2020 fire that engulfed the Bay Motor Hotel.
“The investigation is ongoing to determine the casual factors. Office of the Fire Commissioner will be on scene for further investigation,” said Sgt. Richard Marshall.
According to Hagensborg Fire Chief Tony Norton, those who attended the fire at the Bay Motor Hotel don’t believe it started by accident. The building, which had been abandoned since being damaged in the 2010 flood, hadn’t been connected to hydro or any other services in years.
During its operating days the Bay hosted a full service bar and restaurant and offered dozens of rooms. It was shuttered after the 2010 flood and has remained empty ever since in an ever-increasing state of disrepair.
The fire caused damage to Telus’ phone lines which took several days to repair and caused an outage for multiple customers in the area.
Norton said that the call came in the early morning hours of Nov. 21, and that the Hagensborg Fire Department worked to contain the blaze from 2am until 7am that morning.
“The fire started at the east end of the building and by the time the crew arrived it had spread to the whole building,” said Norton. “There hasn’t been power connected to the building in years, so as far as we’re concerned somebody lit it.”
The building was well-known to be a danger to the public, and Norton said those who had recently been in the building spoke of the first floor falling into the basement and the second floor sagging and ready to collapse. There were rumours of individual(s) squatting in the building, but these have not been confirmed.
The Hagensborg Fire Department was assisted by the Nusatsum and Bella Coola Fire Departments, all of whom are staffed by volunteers. Norton said the heat from the flames was so intense it melted the glasses right off the face of one first responders.
“Our main focus was to make sure it didn’t spread,” said Norton. “There are two houses to the west that are quite close to the building and we wanted to make sure those were safe.”
The building was escheated (meaning the owner hadn’t paid their property taxes in two years) to the Crown in 2014 and its current assessed value, before the structure burnt, was $21,900. It was owned by the province at the time of the fire.
“As I understand it there was a significant problem with the crib foundation and the cost of rehabilitating the building was more than demolishing it,” said Central Coast Area A Director Dan Bertrand.
There were also community concerns with possible asbestos in the building. It isn’t known whether or not the building contained toxic building materials such as asbestos, but witnesses spoke of the smell being overpowering at the site.
Sgt. Richard Marshall said the criminal investigation is ongoing, and if anyone has information they are asked to contact the Bella Coola RCMP at (250) 799-5363 or Crime Stoppers at 1(800) 222-8477.