RCMP investigating Cosmos fire in White Rock

Left with nothing, residents are living in hotel

WHITE ROCK — A condo owner who once lived above Cosmos Greek Restaurant says she hasn’t been back to the building since the fire because “it would be too emotional.”

Lori Farrow was in California for a work-related conference when she received a text April 6 letting her know that her condo was on fire.

She flew back to B.C. the following day.

“It was quite surreal. I was in disbelief,” she told Peace Arch News Thursday.

White Rock fire Chief Phil Lemire told PAN that unattended candles were the source of the fire.

While the cause has been classified as an accident, White Rock RCMP Const. Chantal Sears said police are still investigating.

“We are looking at something right now. It’s not a concluded file,” Const. Sears said Tuesday.

Several businesses to the east of Cosmos have been closed since the fire.

Lemire said that – “to the best of my knowledge” – Whitby’s Books and Gifts, located directly beside Cosmos, sustained little, if any damage.

Farrow said she lost everything and has been couch surfing, staying with friends and family since the fire.

“I’m just waiting for insurance to help out a bit because of the asbestos in some of our units, they said nothing will be salvageable, probably,” Farrow noted.

Farrow said majority of the suites are rented out by the owner.

“They’re all under quarantine so there’s no access and no ETA on access,” she said.

Farrow called PAN Thursday to ask for clarification on a phone number residents could dial if they needed support. Because she wasn’t home at the time of the fire, she wasn’t filled in on the particulars, she said.

“I don’t know what kind of support there is. I know there was a lot of people who didn’t have insurance.”

She said a portion of her neighbours are staying in hotels for the time being, and she hopes to do the same once her insurance is sorted out.

“Most people are moving to the Ocean Promenade now because they have a kitchenette facility… it’s not going to be a short-term thing.”

West, who lived in one of the back units, was home at the time of the fire.

She said that on the Sunday before the fire, the fire alarms sounded two seperate times, but it was a false alarm.

“People were running down the halls banging, saying this is a real one this time,” West told PAN the morning after the fire.

“We got outside, we could hear the fire engines in the distance and all I could see is flames shooting out of the middle floor. Flames coming out like crazy.”

She said everybody remained fairly calm throughout the ordeal.

“There are a lot of old people in this building. It was really tough, it was really cold (that) night. People came out in flip-flops and shorts.”

Pamper Me Day Spa, located three businesses down from Cosmos, was not damaged in the fire but has been closed since April 6.

Owner Louise Sparrow said she was told by the inspector for renovations that the business will be able to reopen “hopefully” this week.

“But I don’t know with the holiday, I haven’t heard anything,” Sparrow told PAN Tuesday.

Efforts are underway to assist those who were displaced by the fire. A GoFundMe page that was launched had collected $215 as of Tuesday. Those needing assistance, or wanting to help, may contact Peter Klenner at 604-209-5570.

Jim Clapp, resident of Harrison Hot Springs, is in the midst of organizing a benefit concert for the fire victims.

“I was down there and I heard there story. My wheels started spinning,” he said, adding that he organized a Dec. 20 benefit concert for the victims of the Paddington Station (201A Street near 56 Avenue) condo fire earlier that month.

He told PAN Tuesday that he had 12 bands lined up for the May 6 event, all proceeds are dedicated to the fire victims.

The concert is to begin at 12 p.m. at the Semiahmoo Park. Clapp said he’s looking for some food donations and a sponsor for the event, his phone number is 778-878-5830.