A weekend fire that damaged an Aldergrove restaurant was likely caused by a homeless person using a propane tank.
Langley Township assistant fire chief Andy Hewitson said fire investigators have determined the blaze that damaged the El Greko restaurant in the 27200 block of Fraser Highway around midnight, Saturday, April 23, was accidental, caused by a “transient person” who was using a propane tank.
“He had set up a makeshift camp at the rear of the building,” Hewitson said.
Because the fire was not a deliberate act, Hewitson did not think criminal charges were likely.
Nineteen firefighters from three halls responded to the fire and quickly gained control of the fire, preventing it from spreading to neighbouring businesses.
Damage was contained to the rear wall and part of the restaurant building roof.
No injuries were reported.
Eyewitness Thomas Waite, who shot video of the early stages of the fire, saw a man fleeing the scene, followed by three others.
“I saw him run, saying, ‘I need a phone! I need a phone!,” Waite reported.
“Three males in their 20s followed. I don’t know if they were friends, or were chasing after him.”
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Waite said the first man appeared to be a homeless person, a Caucasian man in his 40s, who is known to sleep at the back of the restaurant.
“According to him, the restaurant proprietor allows him to sleep there,” Waite recalled.
“I strongly doubt this was intentional. He considers it his home or at least his resting place.”
Waite said the amount of trash where the man camped has been growing steadily for the better part of a year, “and as unfortunate a thought [as] this is, anyone could tell this was only a matter of time. Gas tanks were visible, as was drug paraphernalia.”
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