A woman is in hospital with life-threatening injuries after an early-morning fire in a tent next to a downtown Chilliwack church.
Chilliwack RCMP and BC Ambulance received a report around 3 a.m. on Nov. 8 of “a woman who was engulfed in flames,” according to RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Mike Rail.
|A woman suffered life-threatening injuries after an early-morning fire Nov. 8 engulfed her tent in flames behind the Cross Connection Church downtown Chilliwack. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)|
The Chilliwack Fire Department also attended putting out the fire that caused some damage to the rear wall of the Cross Connection Church at Williams Street and Princess Avenue, and completely destroyed the woman’s tent and her belongings.
She was taken to hospital with serious burns, and is now recovering in the burn unit at Vancouver General Hospital.
Rail said police and the fire department are investigating the cause of the fire but so far they are not finding any evidence of foul play.
He did not know the age of the woman or where she is from.
A distraught Tom Spooner, a long-time downtown homeless man, was near the location of the fire at around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. A woman with him said Spooner felt guilty for not watching out for the woman who was in the tent.
“I don’t think she’s going to make it,” the woman said, adding that she heard the injured woman was trying to keep warm with candles in her tent.
A few hours before the fire at the church, the Chilliwack Fire Department responded to report of a fire at a homeless encampment off Rowat Avenue.
At around 11:40 p.m., crews arrived from Hall 1 to find a fire near the railroad tracks. The fire was contained quickly and there was no damage to nearby structures.
“However, crews had to use extreme caution while containing this fire because small propane cylinders and aerosol canisters were exploding as a result of the heat and flames from the fire,” according to a Chilliwack Fire Department press release.
Both incidents point to the serious issue of homelessness as the cold weather arrives.
Last December, six tents were destroyed in a fire in a homeless camp on Railway Avenue under the Yale Road overpass.
And that same month a 51-year-old Chilliwack woman died in the now-dismantled homeless camp near the Evans Roundabout. Glenda Herrling was killed when snow on her tent collapsed the structure.
While early indications are that the Nov. 8 fire was accidental, Chilliwack RCMP ask anyone who may have seen anything to call 604-792-4611 or, to remain anonymous, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).