Grand Forks City Hall struck by arson – UPDATED

Grand Forks Fire Rescue responded to a call at approximately 5:30 a.m. and found the main floor of city hall engulfed in flames.

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Grand Forks City Hall was struck this morning by fire. Grand Forks Fire Rescue responded to a call at approximately 5:30 a.m. and found the main floor of city hall engulfed in flames.

“When I got here, about four minutes after the initial call, fire was visible through the front door,” said Kevin McKinnon, deputy fire chief. “It was mainly contained to the front part of the building. We had our first truck on scene about two minutes after I arrived and had a crew putting water on the fire immediately. Fortunately, the fire was contained to the front lobby of the area.”

McKinnon said he does not think there was much water damage in the basement where many historical documents are kept.

“There’s a bit of water down there, but our guys were pretty sparse with their use of water,” he said. “I’ve been downstairs and it doesn’t look to my untrained – in terms of archival material – I’m not an expert by any stretch. It doesn’t look too bad down there. The fire did not spread there.”

As a result of the fire, city hall is closed. Phone calls to city hall are being rerouted to the Public Works office. Staff are making plans for setting up temporary operations from the Public Works office at 130 Industrial Drive.

“We are shocked by this incident and we are extremely thankful that no one was hurt,” said Grand Forks Mayor Brian Taylor. “We are awaiting further information as the proper authorities complete their investigation. In the meantime, we are making arrangements to ensure our staff are briefed and alternate arrangements are made for our customers.” Taylor and city CAO Doug Allin were both attending the Union of B.C. Municipalities Conference in Vancouver, but have cancelled all meetings and flew back to Grand Forks.

There is a news conference scheduled for 4:30 p.m. today (Sept. 19) outside City Hall.

RCMP arson investigators have been called in and are investigating the fire in consultation with Grand Forks Fire Rescue to determine the cause of the fire.

A person of interest was taken into custody at about 6 a.m. this morning.

Members of Kootenay Boundary Regional Detachment general investigation team are also on site helping with the investigation, said Grand Forks RCMP Staff Sgt. Jim Harrison.

“We do expect things will go smoothly with the investigation,” he said. “We have every level of confidence that everything is being covered off extremely well.”

Before investigators were able to enter the building, a structural engineer had to check out the building.

“That has been done,” said Harrison. “The structural engineer advised us that is was safe to enter the building to carry on the investigation.”

There were no injuries.

“There was nobody in the building at the time,” he said.

Harrison also said that the fire was not caused by a bomb and that there is no link to the hotel fires from 2012.

“At this point, we’re advising that we have no reason to believe that public safety is at danger,” said Harrison. “We do ask if anyone has information regarding who started the fire that they contact police at 250-442-8288 or Crimestoppers.”