Fire investigators began the painstaking task of sifting through the charred rubble of two historic downtown buildings in Williams Lake Sunday afternoon looking for answers into Friday’s fire.
Williams Lake Fire Department Fire Chief Erick Peterson said representatives from the WLFD, RCMP and a few private insurance companies are going through the debris to look for cause and origin to “try to figure out what happened here Friday morning.”
The investigators are expected to continue their work Monday, before the scene can be cleaned up and reopened.
Peterson said at this time he has no opinion as to whether the fire is suspicious in nature, however, Diamonds and Dust Entertainment Lounge co-owner Gail Boxeur, who was on scene Sunday afternoon, certainly does.
“It’s very suspicious,” she said.
The strip club was the scene of a shooting incident April 25 where it is alleged a suspect fired a gunshot into the ceiling. That incident was followed by two failed arson attempts May 2 and again August 15.
“There are a lot of strange things going on in this community [with] gangs. We have a hard and fast policy where we don’t allow gang members in, and you know we may be the worst enemy because of that but we try to do our best.”
In the previous arson attacks, Boxeur said the fires were put out with help from employees and customers of Oliver’s Bar and Grill across the street and their own employees and customers as well as the fire department.
On Sunday, Boxeur said she felt many emotions from the loss, which not only destroyed the strip club, but also the popular eatery New World Coffee and Tea House.
“A little lost, a lot hurt, just displaced, all of us, not only our business but the other businesses have suffered too and they continue to suffer,” said Boxeur.
“We’re just trying to pick through the pieces to see where to start to rebuild and do whatever … we’re thinking rebuild but we’ll see.”
As a result of the fire seven employees at Diamonds and Dust are out of work, and another seven next door at New World, Boxeur said. The historic buildings were lost — Boxeur’s and New World being close 90 years old, and the barber shop, was turning 100 next month.
“I feel heartbroken, heartbroken for all of them. You know because this isn’t going to be done in a week it’s going to be months and they’ll feel that all the way from New World all the way down to Mings,” Boxeur said. “This is savage … it affects everybody, emotionally, financially.”
Boxeur is thankful to the comunity for the support they’ve received, including from their neighbours across the street, Cariboo Community Church, who offered to assist them and their staff in any way they could.
As for whoever caused the fire, Boxeur believes karma will come come back to them.
“It’s just really hurtful.”