A vessel caught fire on the Fraser River this morning as a demolition crew was taking it apart.
A Black Press freelancer at the scene said the blaze began around 10 a.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 30), near 138th Street and 117th Avenue in Surrey.
Jordan Rowand, CEO of Mountain Demolition, told the Now-Leader his crew was removing items in the engine room of the old vessel when the fire sparked.
“You can be cutting a line, and (the flame) can be directed in a different way quickly and go back to the line you’re cutting. When he was cutting something off the wall, it redirected and went through the wall,” Rowand explained. “If there’s impurities in the metals, rust and things like that, these issues can happen. It’s not very common, so we’re going to be reassessing, and shutting the site down for a couple days now.”
Of the fire, Rowand said it was “in a contained area, so hard to get in there to manage it.”
“We’ve got four pumps on,” he added.
How big was the blaze?
“If somebody had a big brush fire in their backyard, it was smaller than that,” he said, adding that everyone at the site is safe and the scene is under control.
Although early reports identified the fire as on a barge, Rowand said it’s “nothing even remotely close to that level” and is “definitely not another barge.”
Danielle Jang with the Port of Vancouver told the Now-Leader it was “working on a co-ordinated response with Vancouver Fire and Rescue, and Mountain Demolition.”
“We’ve deployed the Vancouver fire boat,” Jang said.
Assistant Surrey Fire Chief Dave Burns said because the vessel was in the middle of the river, Surrey crews couldn’t access it.
“It’s tied up in the middle of the river,” said Burns.
Burns said today’s fire isn’t at the same location as two barge fires in recent months.
“It’s further up river,” he noted.
There have been two barge fires on the river in recent months.
First, a barge of scrap cars caught fire in early August. The area was blanketed in smoke, and the smell of burning tires filled the air for miles around.
The fire broke out on the fully loaded, 76-metre barge as it was moored just north of the Pattullo Bridge.
A fireboat from Vancouver was called because firefighters in Surrey could not attack the worst of the flames near the front of the vessel, farthest from shore.
Then on Oct. 9, another fire broke out on the same barge and a flaming pile of crushed sent plumes of smoke into the Metro Vancouver sky for the second time in two months.
Firefighters could be seen monitoring the blaze from the shore.
Two backhoes were moved off the barge, so that firefighters could tackle the flames with hoses.
The pair of fires led to concerns from nearby residents, earlier this month.
Tyee and Michele Bridge said they could only imagine what chemicals went into the air and the water following the Oct. 9 barge fire at Schnitzer Steel — the second barge fire in two months.
Michele said she was on a run when she saw the “huge plume of black smoke.” She said she could see that the fire was coming from the same area as where another barge fire occurred in August.
“During my run, I increasingly couldn’t breathe. I had to stop to catch my breath which I never have to do,” said Michele, adding that by the end of her run, the fire had increased “by four or five times the size.”
“The sky was just covered in black toxic smoke and my throat was just burning,” she said.
Surrey assistant fire chief Chris Keon told the Now-Leader that the Oct. 9 barge fire was at the same location as the barge fire in early August.
In an emailed statement from Schnitzer Steel Canada, it reads that the barge was “comprised of crushed auto bodies that had been drained of fluids and properly processed for end of life, and assorted light iron such as washers and dryers.”
The cause of the two earlier fires was never released.
More to come…
-With files from Lauren Collins