06/14/2012 10:31 EDT | Updated 08/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Riot sparked hellish night for Vancouver firefighters

When a Molotov cocktail went through a cafe window on Granville Street last June 15, Vancouver’s assistant fire chief says he knew the night would no longer be remembered for just a disappointing hockey game.

Joe Foster said he saw the smoke coming out of a window above a restaurant on Granville just after the Canucks lost Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. His first concern was that the whole block could go up in flames.

“In a place like the Granville mall, there's a lot of old buildings. There's no fire stops in places where there have been major renovations,” Foster said, when asked to look back on the night one year later.

He went inside to put the fire out. But in the few minutes he was in the cafe, Foster said, the mood outside had turned ugly.

He was concerned that — wearing his uniform and not firefighting gear — he would be a target for the mob. So he had the restaurant manager let him out the back door leading to a lane, where there was yet more trouble.

“I looked one direction and there was about 15 people on the one side and I looked other way and there was about 12 or 15 people lighting a dumpster on fire.”

With nowhere to go, Foster hoped humour would work.

“I kind of just walked over to them and I said, ‘Come on guys, you're killing me. Can you not go, move on,’ right? And for whatever reasons, they turned around and walked the other way.”

Firefighters set upon

By the time he got back to his station, he was hearing about fires in cars, other dumpsters and parkades. It was hard for his crews to put them out because crowds had gathered around them as if they were campfires.

Firefighters had already become targets of some thugs looking for fights.

Foster said that one the outcomes of the June 15 mayhem was a decision that in any future riot situations, some firefighters would be stationed with the riot squad to give first-hand information on whether it's safe for fire crews to go in to different situations.

Foster walked away without injury that night, but his car did not fare as well.

“I think one of the [news]paper boxes off the corner was thrown through the windshield - and the Kesler jersey I'd been wearing earlier had been taken out of the front seat.”