In early July, a fire destroyed a critical support venue in the Downtown Eastside community and displaced many of its residents.
Flames broke out at around 9:30 p.m. on July 6 in the 100 block of East Hastings Street and quickly spread to the adjoining two-storey structure housing a convenience store and the Vancouver Street Church. The Street Church is a Foursquare house of worship offering fellowship, teaching, and meals for those in need.
“The building was completely gutted, and while nobody was injured in the fire, smoke and flames came dangerously close to the Maple Hotel, which houses dozens of vulnerable Downtown Eastside residents,” says Vancouver Police Department Constable Tania Visintin in a media release.
The fire, which was the second on Hastings Street within a week, is now being investigated as arson by the VPD. Police have now released a video in the hopes that the public can help identify the suspects.
The security video shows three suspects who VPD detectives, after working with VFRS investigators, believe to have deliberately set the fire in an alcove behind the Street Church. The video, taken at around 9 p.m. on the night of the fire, shows flames flickering in the alcove before the suspects walk away as smoke begins to billow out.
“We believe each suspect was present when the fire was set, had knowledge of the arson, and had time to either put out the fire or call for help,” adds Visintin. “Their failure to do so put dozens of people in danger, and we’re asking anyone who recognizes them to come forward.”
This is now a criminal case.
Anyone with information is asked to call VPD’s Major Crime Section at 604-717-2541 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-4477.
With files from Lindsay William-Ross and The Canadian Press