Legal services race to find new locations after courthouse fire in Golden

The courthouse in Golden, B.C., was gutted by fire on Monday. (Jet Belgraver/CBC - image credit)
The courthouse in Golden, B.C., was gutted by fire on Monday. (Jet Belgraver/CBC - image credit)

Legal professionals are scrambling to find other places to conduct business and figuring out what has been lost after a major fire gutted the provincial courthouse in Golden, B.C., on Monday.

The Law Courts building — which also houses a Service B.C. office — burned for more than 10 hours with flames at one point reaching 10 metres into the air because of what police described as a "purposeful arson."

Golden-based lawyer Cameron Longfellow, who has frequented the building for business over the past year, says the fire has been devastating to not only his profession but the entire community.

"It's a very strange feeling," he said.

The building serves a community of nearly 4,000 residents located about 46 kilometres from the Alberta border. It is one of the two provincial courthouses in the East Kootenay region.

Longfellow says with the Golden courthouse closed, he and other lawyers in town may have to travel south to the Cranbrook courthouse — about 216 kilometres away — to do their work.

In a written statement, the B.C. Provincial Court says it's still working to find an alternate location for its hearings.

Legal businesses move to Cranbrook

Mounties say it's unlikely that the Golden courthouse will be reopened in the near future, given the significant damage.

Longfellow is also concerned many court documents have been lost in the fire.

"There's a possibility that many court documents that you haven't filed or have filed have been destroyed," he said. "We're still waiting to hear from the court staff."

Suzanne Forbes, a marriage commissioner at Service B.C. in Golden, says in the aftermath of the fire, she's been working from the Town of Golden's office to issue marriage licences, a process that takes about 15 minutes.

Forbes says the relocation hasn't resulted in any delays for newlyweds.

"This [was] probably the least of the worries."

In a written statement to CBC, Service B.C. says effective Wednesday, in-person services will be provided at the Ministry of Children and Family Development office at 1104 Ninth Street South.

Longfellow says moving to the Cranbrook courthouse will slow things down for him.

"Our staff are very familiar with how the Golden Court [in terms of] how matters are filed [and] how the clerks do things, and now it's going to be a learning curve."

"It's going to be a lot more travelling. It's going to be a lot more planning."