Vancouver fire that destroyed Downtown Eastside street church in July now ruled arson

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VANCOUVER — A fire that destroyed a street church on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and displaced dozens of residents from a neighbouring low-income hotel is now being investigated as an arson.

Vancouver police have released video of three people they believe sparked the July 6 fire in the 100 block of East Hastings Street.

It destroyed a two-storey building that housed the church and a convenience store and threatened the seven-storey Maple Hotel, temporarily displacing vulnerable residents.

Police say video uncovered during the investigation shows three people lighting a fire in a laneway alcove behind the street church.

The video, taken at around 9 p.m. on the night of the fire, shows flames flickering in the alcove before the suspects walk away as smoke begins to billow out.

Police have also released photographs of the three suspects and are now asking for help in identifying them.

Const. Tania Visintin says investigators believe each of the three knew of the arson and had time to either put out the fire or call for help.

“Their failure to do so put dozens of people in danger, and we’re asking anyone who recognizes them to come forward," Visintin says in the statement.

No one was hurt, but the loss of the street church deprived area residents of an organization that provided meals and outreach in the neighbourhood for almost 30 years.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 8, 2022.

The Canadian Press