Leaders at Anita Place tent city say they will comply with an evacuation order (Neil Corbett/Maple Ridge News)

Maple Ridge homeless camp residents bracing to be evacuated

Fire safety evacuation order issued Friday after three fires in two days

Street entrenched people living at Anita Place Tent City are anticipating fire officials and police to come and evacuate the homeless camp in Maple Ridge.

The Provincial Fire Commissioner issued an evacuation order Friday after there were three fires in two days at the camp, and a total of nine over almost two years since the camp was established on 223rd Street in May of 2017.

According to the order, the evacuation is “a result of the existence of fire hazards and the risk of explosion” and says “there is an imminent and serious danger to life and property if persons are permitted to occupy.”

On Saturday, what once was a camp filled with colourful tarps and wooden structures had many heaps of charred debris and metal piping.

Most camp residents were leaving the site with their few belongings, although a truck turned up to remove a big screen television from the camp.

Camp residents and spokesperson Chris Bossley were talking about what they believe was a deliberate attempt to start a fire in the camp at approximately 10 p.m. on Friday night, by a couple who are not camp residents. The man left the camp with a bloodied face said Dwayne Martin. Police responded to the scene.

Longtime camp resident Pete Woodrow told the Maple Ridge News he doesn’t know exactly how each fire sparked earlier this week.

“I know at least one of them, there was no way it could have been an inside combustible,” he said.

The fires follow steps by the Maple Ridge fire department and city to ensure safety measures were in place to avoid fires sparking as temperatures have plunged in recent weeks. Those measures include prohibiting propane.

But Pivot Legal Society, who’s representing the camp residents, said by prohibiting propane and cutting power to a warming tent supplied by BC Housing, it has left residents with no ways to stay warm.

Woodrow said he believes the province should provide motel rooms for the evacuated residents who are facing being displaced.

“I think people are feeling a lot of hopelessness, they are scared,” he said. “We’re just trying our best to keep them calm and hopefully we can negotiate a place for them to go tonight – that’s my one goal today.”

More to come.

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