Thieves who made off with heavy duty power cables and electrical components have forced the shutdown of the popular Bright Nights train in Stanley Park, the major fundraiser of the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund charity.
The organization's president Gord Ditchburn said the thefts at the Vancouver attraction were only discovered Friday afternoon during preparations to get the train and light display going again after it had been shuttered since Dec. 26 because of frigid weather.
"We've had COVID restrictions, inclement weather, the snow and freezing temperatures ... and now we have the final gut punch of people taking off with the main power source," he said.
"It doesn't affect the train, but the train is essentially running in the dark."
Riding the Stanley Park train through the Bright Nights display of millions of lights is a longstanding Christmas tradition for many families.
Bright Nights normally raises more than $500,000 per year for the burn fund, more than half of that through donations at the gate. But with all the disruptions, including last year's COVID-19 shutdowns, donations are down by as much as 80 per cent.
"It affects our ability to offer programs to burn survivors across the province," said Ditchburn. "So yeah, it's been a tough year."
The Bright Nights Stanley Park train was scheduled to run through to Jan 2.
Ditchburn said people who want to support the burn fund could still buy online 50/50 tickets until midnight on New Year's Eve, or make a donation.
He said Stanley Park officials had reported the thefts to Vancouver police.