Port Coquitlam elementary school destroyed in ‘suspicious’ fire

Firefighters were battling a blaze at a Port Coquitlam elementary school early Saturday morning.

The Port Coquitlam RCMP says officers and fire crews responded to reports of the fire just after 3:15 a.m., and are now investigating the cause of the fire.

Port Coquitlam Fire knocked down the fire at Hazel Tembath Elementary School along Confederation Drive in the city’s Mary Hill neighbourhood.

“The fire had fully engulfed the school and is believed to be suspicious. The school was unoccupied at the time and there are no reported injuries,” Corp. Alexa Hodgins said.

Footage and images posted to social media show the school engulfed in flames, with thick grey and black smoke wafting into the air.

“We are asking anyone who may have video surveillance in the area of Hazel Trembath Elementary School around the time of the fire, to contact our investigators,” Hodgins said. “Police are also looking to speak with anyone who may have been in the area between the late evening of October 13, 2023 and the early morning of October 14, 2023.”

Smoke and haze drifted into nearby neighbourhoods, including Burnaby, New Westminster, and parts of Vancouver.

Port Coquitlam Deputy Fire Chief Mike Patrick tells CityNews that when crews arrived just after 3 a.m., smoke and flames were showing throughout the building.

He says approximately 26 firefighters battled the blaze, which resulted in a “total loss” of the school.

“All students and faculty are definitely going to be displaced.”

In a statement to CityNews, School District 43 says it is “actively planning” for students and families of Hazel Trembath so the district can continue to support student learning.

“All students and faculty are definitely going to be displaced,” Patrick said. “The school will not be open anytime soon.”

Taking to social media, Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West says the destruction of the school is “heartbreaking.”

“I’m absolutely devastated to see the images of Hazel Trembath gone. As a former student myself & the parent of a Grade 1 student there, I know what a special place Hazel is,” he said.

West notes that the school district will be holding an information session at 5 p.m. Saturday at Pitt River Middle School for all families affected by the fire. Parents and guardians will also receive information via the Trembath and district websites, he adds.

“I have pledge the full support of the city and all of resources to assist our kids, teachers, support staff, parents and caregivers during this incredibly difficult time. The city is working closely with the District, identifying spaces and finding ways to meet needs.

“And I am committed to doing everything in my power to see Hazel Trembath rebuilt, to continue to serve, to support and to connect an amazing community,” West said.

Fundraising dollars matched by local PoCo company

Meanwhile, neighbours are coming together to support the school community, and one local mom and her husband are matching fundraising dollar-for-dollar.

Sarah Jonas, co-owner of Montia Restoration, says she and her husband are hoping to help the school community, especially teachers who have “put a lot of time and money into supplies for their classrooms, as well as the kids who’ve lost all their personal items and school supplies.”

“So, we just want to get out there and see how we can help bring the community together and support Hazel Trembath,” Jonas told CityNews.


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A post shared by Montia Restoration Ltd. (@montiarestorationltd)

She explains every one in the neighbourhood is reeling from the fire, especially as it happened in the middle of the night and under suspicious circumstances.

“It’s definitely a shock that something like this would happen, and it affects so many families and teachers,” she said.

Police are urging anyone with information to contact the Coquitlam RCMP at 604-945-1550 and quote file number 2023-27725.

With files from Raynaldo Suarez

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