Fire crews from Port Alberni, Beaver Creek and Sproat Lake were called to a fire in the derelict Arrowview Hotel at the corner of Second Avenue and Athol Street in Port Alberni, Thursday night (Apr. 2) and spent more than two hours dousing the flames.
Port Alberni RCMP Const. Tom Gill called the fire “suspicious”. Port Alberni fire Chief Tim Pley said early estimations are that the fire started on the main floor. “We’ve got the bulk of the fire out,” he said at 11:15 p.m. “We’re searching because we want to know if there’s any victims (inside).”
There had been reports that squatters had been seen using the abandoned building, but no confirmation that anyone was still inside, he said.
The building has been abandoned for several years; it was one of several sites in Port Alberni used to shoot the movie thriller Insomnia, starring the late Robin Williams, in 2001. World renowned artist Laird Campbell and clothing designer Brenda Laine once owned the building, using the first and second floors for their art and design studios.
The building is of concern to the City of Port Alberni, planner Scott Smith noted in a report in late 2014, and a letter had been sent to the owners requesting “remediation” of the building.
Pley said the building has been in a state of serious disrepair for awhile, and has been a concern. The roof has been leaking and many of the gyproc walls had holes punched into them. “The foundation on the downward side is starting to fail so there’s structural concerns,” he added.
Pley said despite the fire the floors seemed intact, but he was being cautious about sending in his crews.
“I don’t know there was a lot of damage from the fire itself,” Pley said. “The issues with this building are with the lack of maintenance.”
Hydro had been cut to the area which caused some building alarms to go off, which was a bit of a distraction, Pley said. Power was back on in most areas except immediately around the building by 11 p.m.
Fire crews and RCMP were expected to be on scene for several hours watching for hot spots.