Terrace, B.C. fire rips through downtown building

It was early Thursday morning when Matt Kawei woke up to what he described as soft knocks coming from his Terrace, B.C. apartment door. "I didn't really take notice at first," he said.

"Another 10 minutes later, there was a loud knock like someone trying to break the door down."

It was the RCMP to warn Kawei and his family that a fire was burning nearby. They had to leave immediately.

The Terrace Fire Department responded to a building at Kalum Street and Lakelse Avenue, home to a fishing and hunting store called Northcoast Anglers.

When crews arrived just after 5:35 a.m., they saw smoke billowing from the two-storey building.

Fire quickly spread 

"It was basically a defensive fire fight," said Fire Chief John Klie. "This was a fish and tackle building. They had clothing, they had life jackets, they had ammunition."

He said the fire quickly spread from the first floor, to the second floor, right through the roof.

The fire so was so big he enlisted the help of the volunteer fire department from the neighbouring community of Thornhill. 

Terrace Mayor Carol Leclerc says the city has been in touch with the owners of the store. "They're quite devastated because, I mean, who wouldn't be?" Leclerc asked. 

"I mean that's part of your world having your business, then all of a sudden it's there one day and it's gone the next."

Leclerc says the business was frequented by locals and people driving by. "For anybody who ever came as a tourist to Terrace, they always had this great big salmon hanging outside the store."

'Smells ... like plastic burning'

Kawei and his family were permitted back into their apartment building late Thursday afternoon. "It smells like burnt ... like plastic burning, and those types of smells."

He said others are less fortunate than him. "I saw the family and the owner moving things away. It's really bad in there."

A cause hasn't yet been determined but the RCMP and fire investigators will sift through the rubble. 

No one was injured in the blaze.