Beloved East Vancouver Value Village Destroyed by Fire Will Be Missed

Local residents said they will miss the thrift store, which has been a fixture in the area for decades. Firefighters said the cause of the fire is unknown, but they cannot rule out arson yet

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Cleanups and investigations to determine the cause of a fire that destroyed a Value Village thrift store on East Hastings Street have been suspended because the basement was flooded by water used to extinguish the flames, firefighters said Friday.

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The cause of the fire is unknown, but “anything is a possibility,” said Brian Bertuzzi, assistant chief of operations at Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.

“It could be accidental, it could be arson. Nothing is off the table.”

Bertuzzi said the crew will move in this week to pump out the water and then bring in heavy machinery to tear down the walls.

“They (researchers) can’t get in because of the unsafe condition and the complete flooding of the basement,” he said. “Right now we’re just waiting for some stability.”

Vancouver firefighters fought a persistent fire late Wednesday that destroyed Value Village department store on E. Hastings Street in Vancouver.  Thursday morning, June 30, 2022, they were still pouring water on hot spots.
Vancouver firefighters fought a persistent fire late Wednesday that destroyed Value Village department store on E. Hastings Street in Vancouver. Thursday morning, June 30, 2022, they were still pouring water on hot spots. Photo by Jason PaynePNG

The fire broke out after 10 p.m. on Wednesday and smoke could be seen and smelled for miles. Bertuzzi said more than 50 firefighters fought the blaze and about 12 fire engines attended the three-alarm fire.

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No one was killed or injured in the fire.

All that was left of the building in the 1800 block of East Hastings Street on Friday was the outer walls of the cinder blocks, including those facing east. It was almost completely intact and “Value Village” painted in large red block letters at the top was still visible.

The facade had disappeared and there were some supporting steel girders. The floor was piled more than three feet high with charred wood planks, turned metal, sections of metal shelving, and the building’s massive air-conditioning system.

Deb Beaudreau and Rich Talmey, who live nearby and arrived on the scene Wednesday evening, returned Friday to view the ruins. They said they will miss the store, which has been part of the East Vancouver neighborhood for decades.

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“We like going to costumed events and we used to come here to buy clothes, and it was a great place to buy a tablecloth or something at the last minute,” Beaudreau said.

“Just six days ago, I bought two shorts for $10.”

She said her favorite find was a lynx faux fur coat she bought for $30 in 2009 and still wears it today.

“We offer employee assistance to those who wish to participate, and we are seeking both short- and long-term employment opportunities for engaged team members in other Value Village stores,” company spokeswoman Sara Gaugl said in an email.

Vancouver firefighters fought a persistent fire late Wednesday that destroyed Value Village department store on E. Hastings Street in Vancouver.  Thursday morning, June 30, 2022, they were still pouring water on hot spots.
Vancouver firefighters fought a persistent fire late Wednesday that destroyed Value Village department store on E. Hastings Street in Vancouver. Thursday morning, June 30, 2022, they were still pouring water on hot spots. Photo by Jason PaynePNG

She also said Value Village is working with fire officials in their investigation, but said it was too early to say whether the store will be rebuilt.

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Value Village, which began in San Francisco in 1954, is a thrift store business that pays nonprofits to donate items to the store, but none of the proceeds from the sales in the stores go to charity.

The site was cordoned off over the weekend. At the rear was another small black hatchback in a parking lot behind the shop, with some charred planks on the hood. A cardboard box full of clothes stood inside the blue temporary fence in the back lane.

The vinyl cladding of the multi-family home that shared a back street with the store appeared melted and warped in one area. Several homes were temporarily evacuated on Wednesday.

Bertuzzi visited the scene Friday morning. “Looks like they (firefighters) did a great job containing it” and there is no damage to neighboring buildings, he said.

To the east is a used car park and dozens of cars for sale were left covered in soot.

To the west, the Indonesian Church of Bethany looked untouched by the fire. But half a dozen building dining cars were parked outside, and workers inside were cleaning chairs and the floor.

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