Teens arrested in Bella Bella fire

Community re-opens grocery store in United Church after blaze levels 35-year-old structure.

BELLA BELLA—Three teenage girls have been arrested in the wake of a Friday morning fire that destroyed the grocery store and post office in this remote island community, RCMP announced Monday.

The girls, ages 13, 15 and 16, were arrested within hours of the initial fire and police response.

“RCMP and fire investigators will forward a report of their findings to the crown for their review, in order to determine whether charges against the girls are appropriate,” RCMP Cpl. Dan Moskaluk said Monday in a written release.

The community wasted no time rallying to restore services lost when the fire, which broke out about 4 a.m. Friday, razed the 35-year-old wooden building and left the community without its only grocery store and several other services.

An emergency meeting was called by the Heiltsuk First Nation council Friday evening to establish short-, medium- and long-term processes to restore grocery distribution and other services.

About 60 hours later, at 10 a.m. Monday, the local United Anglican Church opened as a temporary grocery store. The Heiltsuk elders’ building is serving as the post office.

“The church has been transformed into a small grocery store for the moment,” said Marilyn Slett, Chief Councilor for the band. “The (grocery) supplier we use brought up some supplies on the ferry on the weekend and we had some trailers unloaded Sunday. Even before that, we had construction crews and volunteers inside, building shelves.”

“It’s certainly a lot smaller in scope, and it’s just a temporary solution, but it’s what we’ll be using for our grocery needs right now.”

A website — rebuildbellabella.tumblr.com — was set up Friday afternoon up to collect donations via Paypal, and by the next morning had generated more than $3,000, Slett said.

“That was put to use right away,” she added. “We sent cubes down on the ferry overnight, and some band members shopped at Overwaitea (Foods in Port Hardy). Those cubes were filled with food and distributed to the community when the ferry got back.”

Supplying food to the community of about 1,500 was the most pressing concern in the wake of the fire. But the destroyed building also housed the village’s post office, library and liquor store. The non-profit Kvai Cafe was in the basement; its staff hosted cultural camps which have been suspended for at lease a week.

Slett said donations of books have already started coming in to replace what was lost when the fire destroyed the local library

Due to the close proximity of several gas and diesel tanks at the local gas bar, RCMP initiated an evacuation of the local hospital and several residences in the area while firefighters battled the blaze. Members of Health Emergency Management BC were contacted to assist the community in the aftermath of the disaster.

“We’re just so thankful no lives were lost,” said Slett. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge for our community to rebuild.”

The rebuildbellabella website will remain active for those who wish to provide financial assistance. Slett said generous assistance from a number of quarters is already easing the pain of the loss suffered in the fire.

“It helps our recovery process, the help we’ve received from all our neighbours — other First nations neighbours, Port Hardy, BC Ferries, Pacific Coastal Airlines. They’ve been wonderful.”

 

Just Posted

North Island MLA Michele Babchuk. Photo contributed
COMMENTARY: MLA Michele Babchuk talks the future of forestry

‘These forests are important to every single one of us, myself included’

Dr. Prean Armogam hands over a cheque for $10,000 to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society president Rosaline Glynn. The money will be going towards a new roof for the Port Hardy seniors centre. This is the second donation Dr. Armogam has made to the society, giving them $5,000 a little over a year ago. (Tyson Whitney - North Island Gazette)
Doctor donates $10k to Hardy Bay Senior Citizens Society for new roof

This was the second donation Armogam has given to the society

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

Blueprints for the seniors housing project in Port Hardy. (North Island Seniors Housing Foundation photo)
BC Housing declines North Island Seniors Housing Foundation’s proposal to build units

BC Housing will be explaining why exactly the project was declined at a June 18 meeting

An aerial view of the marine oil-spill near Bligh Island in Nootka sound that the Canadian Coast Guard posted in a live social media feed in December. ( Canadian Coast Guard/Facebook)
Oil from vessel that sank in 1968 off Vancouver Island to be removed

DFO hires Florida firm to carefully remove oil from MV Schiedyk in Nootka Sound starting in mid-June

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

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