Business owners and community members are coming to terms with the damage wreaked by a large fire in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood which destroyed several businesses Thursday.
Michel Blais, owner of Frenchies Diner, was out shopping in the morning when his phone began to ring with news of the fire.
“A few people call me and say, ‘Hey you’re on fire, you’re on fire.’ And I thought they were joking,” Blais said.
He drove to his restaurant and seeing the plumes of black smoke from Kingsway, he said he “kind of freaked out.”
“I was basically thinking about my staff, that’s all. I was more worried about my staff losing their jobs, you know.”
The fire started in the diner around 10 a.m., eventually spreading to several buildings. The fire destroyed Frenchies Diner and several other businesses were also caught in the blaze. Several of the buildings had to be demolished in the attempt to control it.
Vancouver police say they have arrested one person for arson, although the investigation is ongoing.
Dandelion Records and Emporium was another business caught in the fire. The fire had spread along the roof and as firefighters hosed it down, the shop’s stock was flooded.
Staff from nearby Pulp Fiction Books came to help, said bookstore owner Chris Brayshaw, by removing inventory from the store before the ceiling caved in.
Brayshaw said despite the circumstances, he was pleased to see his community come together Thursday.
“In this neighbourhood, historically, there has been a real sense of actual community and of individuals coming together, and helping each other out and looking out for one another.”
The small businesses affected by the fire are hoping the community continues to support them.
Blais said his diner was a 20-year-old establishment with a loyal customer base in the community. He says he’s received many messages and phone calls in the aftermath offering support.
“I will be back. I told my customers that if I have to have a stroller to give you the food, I will still be open.”