Creek impacted by ‘millions of litres’ of chlorinated water used to fight B.C. condo fire

Fire consumed a condo development project under construction at 208th Street and 80th Avenue Monday night, April 19. Many spectators shared their images. (Daniel Gerstner/Instagram: @gerstner/Special to Langley Advance Times)Fire consumed a condo development project under construction at 208th Street and 80th Avenue Monday night, April 19. Many spectators shared their images. (Daniel Gerstner/Instagram: @gerstner/Special to Langley Advance Times)
Fire consumed a condo development project under construction at 208th Street and 80th Avenue Monday night, April 19. Many spectators shared their images. (Daniel Gerstner/Instagram: @gerstner/Special to Langley Advance Times)Fire consumed a condo development project under construction at 208th Street and 80th Avenue Monday night, April 19. Many spectators shared their images. (Daniel Gerstner/Instagram: @gerstner/Special to Langley Advance Times)
“Upstream side of the log jam - not only does stuff settle out of the water but harmful things that float were trapped at the log jam,” reads YWES photo caption that was shared the day after the April 19 fire. (Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society Facebook)“Upstream side of the log jam - not only does stuff settle out of the water but harmful things that float were trapped at the log jam,” reads YWES photo caption that was shared the day after the April 19 fire. (Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society Facebook)
“While log jams are hard for our spawning salmon to get through this one might have helped save a few. Complexing like this creates pools in the stream channel, this one helped slow the flow of the water from fighting the fire and allow a lot of particulates to settle out of the stream,” reads YWES photo caption in an image that was shared the day after the April 19 fire. (Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society Facebook)“While log jams are hard for our spawning salmon to get through this one might have helped save a few. Complexing like this creates pools in the stream channel, this one helped slow the flow of the water from fighting the fire and allow a lot of particulates to settle out of the stream,” reads YWES photo caption in an image that was shared the day after the April 19 fire. (Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society Facebook)
“REALLY hard to see, but if you look closely right in the middle of the picture you can see three tiny coho fry in Yorkson Creek at McClughan Park,” reads YWES photo caption in an image that was shared the day after the April 19 fire. (Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society Facebook)“REALLY hard to see, but if you look closely right in the middle of the picture you can see three tiny coho fry in Yorkson Creek at McClughan Park,” reads YWES photo caption in an image that was shared the day after the April 19 fire. (Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society Facebook)
“Big slug of foam still left over from the fire fighting upstream,” reads YWES photo caption in an image that was shared the day after the April 19 fire. (Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society Facebook)“Big slug of foam still left over from the fire fighting upstream,” reads YWES photo caption in an image that was shared the day after the April 19 fire. (Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society Facebook)
Foam in the 86th Avenue culvert on April 20, 2021. The Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society said a school of coho fry were found alive just down stream. (Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society Facebook)Foam in the 86th Avenue culvert on April 20, 2021. The Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society said a school of coho fry were found alive just down stream. (Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society Facebook)

A massive fire that tore through a condo complex in Willoughby in April didn’t impact just the developer and residents who were left dealing with the aftermath.

There was significant environmental impact to the Yorkson Creek.

The morning after the raging fire took hold of the under-construction Alexander Square condo complex on April 19 a volunteer with the Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society (YWES) discovered the Yorkson Creek had been damaged by the blaze.

READ MORE: Willoughby Fire: The aftermath of the inferno in Langley

“The millions of gallons of chlorinated [municipal] water used for fire suppression from 10 p.m. Monday evening to 2 p.m. Tuesday the next day, entered nearby catch basins and storm sewers that flowed west two blocks and directly entered the Yorkson Creek at 80th Avenue,” explained Nat Cicuto, board chair of the Yorkson Watershed Enhancement Society.

Transported with the water was burn particulate and resins from melted asphalt shingles, dry wall, plastics, glass, and wood, he said.

Cicuto was the first on site on behalf of the YWES at 7 a.m. on April 20 to inspect the stream.

“I immediately noticed surface foam on the water, and some discolouration, and higher than expected stream flows,” he recalled.

Cicuto then took water samples from the south side and north side of the 80th Avenue culvert crossing.

“The south side was a very low stream flow, but very clear baseline water taken as a baseline sample of what the water quality should be on the north side of the crossing,” he explained. “I then took a water sample from the north side and transported both samples to the nearest [water testing lab] in Langley City.”

The results, Cicuto said, exceeded the ministry standard for chlorine. He called the chemical a “fish killer,” but admitted he didn’t immediately discover any dead.

Although harmful, this fire damage wasn’t the worst he’s seen.

In September 2018 a large bark mulch fire at Langley’s Cloverdale Fuel, a wood recycling and by-products company, burned for more than four days.

Cicuto recalls the environmental impact of that fire “horribly” worse.

“Millions of gallons of fire-contaminated, chlorinated, fire-suppression water entered the nearby Yorkson Creek and flowed north through Katzie Reserve 2 where it entered the Fraser River, and continued from there,” he explained.

Cicuto said that fire was when he learned that the Township of Langley Fire Department’s response is three tiered: first protect life, second protect property, third protect the environment.

Andy Hewitson, deputy chief with the Township of Langley, confirmed the tactical priorities.

“The Township has regulatory processes in place at all times to ensure our waterways are protected,” Hewitson said.

“As a member of the fire department this is not my area of expertise, however I have been advised that overall jurisdiction and related responsibilities associated with the protection of streams lies with the provincial government [Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations] in conjunction with the federal government [Fisheries and Oceans Canada].”

However, a Township media spokesperson confirmed the chlorinated water to battle the Alexander Square fire was not treated before it entered the storm drains to Yorkson Creek.

“Crews and technical staff did inspect/monitor the receiving water course, and reported no damage to infrastructure or the environment,” the nameless individual said.

“However, as a result of this large fire, the Township will be developing a major fires protocol in consultation with the fire department.”

The protocol is expected to take up to six months to develop and implement. The Township said it will not include external consultation.

READ MORE: Fire at large woodpile fire at Langley’s Cloverdale Fuel still smouldering

It was after the Cloverdale Fuel fire that Cicuto said the society learned it needed to improve its response time and work more closely with planners, and decision makers with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and local governments.

“There definitely is room for improvement of communication and bringing together more resources at critical times,” he admitted. “By the time the fire crews reach step three, they’re often tired having worked for 14 hours or five days straight in some cases. We need fresh crews to show up on site with step three in mind, after the site has been deemed safe to work safely around fire crews.”

The blaze in Willoughby on Monday, April 19 at 208th Street and 80th Avenue, first reported around 9:30 p.m. prompted a response from 76 firefighters, including additional support from City of Langley members.

Hewitson estimated millions of litres of water was used to battle the blaze.

“The underground parking area retained a very large quantity of the water used during operations and is currently being removed from site by contractors working for property management,” he said.

The Alexander Square apartment complex consisted of four buildings, each in various stages of construction, with two levels of concrete parkade and six levels of wood-frame construction, according to Metro-Can Construction, the general contractor for the site.

READ MORE: Langley condo fire cleanup may start soon

The total footprint of the four-building complex was 103,000 sq. ft. The complex had a total of 308 units, according to Laura Cropper, a media relations person with Metro-Can.

The cleanup for the condo fire was expected to begin May 10 and the developer pledged to keep affected owners informed.


Have a story tip? Email: joti.grewal@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

EnvironmentfireFishLangley

Just Posted

Suspected methamphetamine and scale seized by police. (Terrace RCMP photo)
Terrace RCMP seize guns, ammo, suspected narcotics

Man released after court appearance

Caledonia Secondary School is the recipient of a $50,000 grant to replace its aging science equipment. (File photo)
Cal snags major grant to modernize science equipment

The $50,000 comes from a pharmaceutical company

Unemployment rate drops in northwestern B.C.

Large improvement since Spring 2020

Uplands Nursery this year will do all of the 4600 Block of Lazelle Ave., beginning at its east end, and a portion of the 4700 Block. (File photo)
Lazelle sidewalk project begins June 14

Improvements coming to 4600 and 4700 Blocks

Cassie Hall Elementary School students pose for a picture in their garden. Since 2019, students and staff at the school have been attending to the garden project. (Binny Paul/Terrace Standard)
Cassie Hall students grow a green sanctuary at school

The K-6 elementary school students and staff have been working on the garden project since 2019

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read