Arson suspected in major fire at courthouse in Golden, B.C.

  • March 14, 2023

Firefighter hurt while tackling early-morning blaze that burned for hours

From CBC News

One firefighter has been hurt as crews responded to a serious fire at the provincial courthouse in Golden, B.C., that RCMP say appears to have been deliberately set.

The Town of Golden said crews were called to the Golden Law Courts and Service B.C. building on Park Drive around 3:30 a.m. PT on Monday. Fire Chief Mike Pecora said the fire burned for more than 10 hours before it was classified as "out" at 1:15 p.m.

"You could see the smoke ... As we got closer, you could actually see two separate areas of flames coming out the top of the courthouse," said Courtney Beaulieu, who passed the fire on her way to work at Mount 7 Taxi around 7:30 a.m.

"We had a driver go to the hospital to grab something, and he said the courthouse is pretty much gone."

No one was inside the building at the time of the fire, but the town said one member of the Golden Fire Department was taken to hospital in Cranbrook with non-life-threatening injuries.

Pecora said it happened when a crew member was on the roof trying to extinguish the fire and fell two storeys to the ground.

"It sounds like they might have broken their elbow and their shoulder," he told CBC Radio West host Sarah Penton.

Flames 30 feet high

Police said in a statement that initial observations point to the fire being the result of "purposeful arson." Investigators are expected to be onsite through the day.

RCMP said it's too early to tell the extent of the damage.

"From what I understand, there's significant damage caused to it, so I imagine there's not going to be an ability to hold court there at any time in the future, at this point," said Cpl. James Grandy.

 Pecora said when crews arrived, about twelve minutes after they received the first call, flames were roughly 30 feet high, "which is telling us [the fire] had been going for a little while."

As an older brick building, he said the courthouse was not very structurally sound, and crews have been pushing over walls that could fall on their own before allowing RCMP in to start their investigation.

Pecora said fighting the fire was made more difficult by the fact it was a courthouse, which meant there were many highly-secured areas that crews couldn't immediately get into.

The courthouse had no hearings scheduled for Monday but had sittings later in the week. At a news conference, B.C. Attorney General Niki Sharma said she'd been notified about the "disturbing" fire and that the ministry would have more information on the continuity of court services later Monday.

Golden Hospital is across the street from the fire. Interior Health said the building wasn't affected, but access to the area was restricted as fire trucks worked from the road.

"Of course, as this is an active event, we are monitoring, but no impacts to services or patients at this time," an email from the hospital said.