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Arson at Burnaby Hospital sparked costliest blaze of 2020

Mental health patients who need beds still being shipped out of city seven months after fire

Burnaby Hospital will be without an inpatient psychiatric unit until a new one is built sometime this fall, according to Fraser Health.

Fire broke out in the Cascade Building, which housed the hospital’s mental health and substance use services, seven months ago and wreaked damage “too substantial to repair,” according to Fraser Health communications consultant Krystle Landert.

Remediation work on the hospital’s west wing, which was also damaged in the blaze, is now complete, and all outpatient clinics at the health-care facility are up and running, according to Landert, but the inpatient mental health beds still haven’t been restored.

Since the fire on Nov. 15, psychiatric patients who come to the hospital’s emergency room and need to be admitted have been shipped to other hospitals, in particular Langley Memorial and Ridge Meadows, where “additional capacity” has been added, according to Fraser Health.

The health authority is in the process of renovating space in the west wing in Burnaby for a 21-bed inpatient mental health unit, but that isn’t projected to be ready until sometime this fall, according to Landert.

“We would like to thank our staff, medical staff and the community for their support and patience during this renovation process,” she wrote in an email to the NOW.

The fire, which broke out in a common area or recreation room on the second floor of the Cascade Building, according to fire officials, was the costliest fire in the city last year.

The Burnaby Fire Department’s 2020 annual report sets the loss at $15 million.

Health officials said the blaze also worsened a COVID-19 outbreak during which 60 patients and 43 staff tested positive and 10 people died of the virus.

Police fire investigators determined the blaze had been deliberately set, and Burnaby RCMP set up a dedicated witness phone line (604-646-9522) and email (bghfire@rcmp-grc.gc.ca) to gather leads.

In December, police released a photo of a person that investigators wanted to talk to in relation to the fire.

The RCMP noted the person wasn’t a suspect in the case but someone police wanted to talk to.

Both the Cascade Building, built in 1973, and the west wing, built in 1952 and 1958, are scheduled to be demolished during Phase 1 (2021 to 2025) of the $1.3 billion Burnaby Hospital redevelopment project.

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor
Email cnaylor@burnabynow.com