BRITISH COLUMBIA

New Westminster Fire: Heritage-Value Building Destroyed (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

10/11/2013 01:06 EDT | Updated 10/11/2013 01:14 EDT

New Westminster's most devastating fire since 1898 levelled a historic building, destroying almost a dozen businesses and leaving a soon-to-be-bride scrambling to find a replacement wedding dress for her Saturday nuptials.

The fire reportedly began around 4 a.m. on Thursday at the E.L. Lewis building at 634 Columbia Street, which was also known as the Crescent Block. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Fire Chief Tim Armstrong told The New Westminster News Leader that crews had been doing maintenance work on the roof and that propane tanks being stored there may have exploded.

Armstrong said the fire escalated quickly and the building completely collapsed in 45 minutes.

The building once housed Copp's Shoe Store, a business that was in operation since 1925 until closing last year, when it was replaced by the Golden Brides wedding store. That business was destroyed alongside Norm's Barber Shop, Not Too Shabby Antiques, Le Saigonnais Vietnamese restaurant and the B.C. offices of the ACORN advocacy group.

The Victorian-Italianate building, which was constructed in 1904, was not an official heritage property, but was on an unofficial list of properties that had heritage value, New Westminster Councillor Jaime McEvoy told The Globe and Mail.

The fire, which destroyed eight retail businesses and three offices in total, was New Westminster's biggest since 1898, when a massive blaze hit one-third of the city's waterfront and the downtown core, The Globe reported.

Terry Brine, the former owner of Copp's Shoes and a co-owner of the block, was emotional as he saw the destruction of a building where he worked for 42 years.

"Does it ever hit you hard," he told The Globe.

Cesar Chung and Heidi Standeven, who are to be married this Saturday, watched the fire burn up the wedding shop that was holding the bride-to-be's dress, The Vancouver Sun reported.

Standeven has obtained a new dress but they're still waiting on another for the maid of honour.

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New Westminster Fire (Oct. 10, 2013)