Community voice to be heard regarding Pandora Street tragedy

Council Chamber
The public finally gets a chance to voice their opionion re Pandora St tragedy

Just before Christmas, three men needlessly died in a tragic fire at a flophouse located on Pandora Street in Vancouver. As we’ve reported here numerous times, City officials had been in and out of that house countless times over the last decade. Most recently inspectors visited the premises in August then again in November to determine if the place was fit for human habitation.

What the inspectors found was simply appalling. Their reports have now been posted online and details how the house was filled with extension cords and sub-standard wiring amongst many other issues. It’s been widely reported the cause of the fire was a faulty extension cord. The overuse of extension cords throughout the house was something one City inspector noted in one of his inspection reports. Here is what he wrote to the building owner:

All flexible cords or extension cords that are being used as a substitute for fixed wiring in the building shall be removed and outlets installed where required.

To date the City has been on the defensive. They publicly stated within hours of the fire that they did everything possible to prevent it. Both the City Manager and Deputy City Manager have spoken to the media and said no stone was left unturned. They also claimed the City was in the process of taking the homeowner to court. However, upon her return from Christmas holidays, City Manager Penny Ballem confirmed to CTV News that there was in fact no legal case pending. As for the Mayor, he’s been MIA on this whole issue.

There have been numerous calls for an independent review/inquiry into the circumstances that led up to the deaths of three Vancouver residents. The Mayor and his Vision caucus have balked at the notion of the City conducting a review of its own actions in this matter.

Next Tuesday Councillor Suzanne Anton will introduce a motion asking for an independent review and council will be forced to vote on it. That means for the first time since the fire, both family and friends as well as the community at large will be permitted to speak directly to council about the need for an inquiry.

If you want to speak to council on this matter and you live in Vancouver, you simply need to call 311 and ask to be placed on the speakers list. You will be provided up to 5 minutes to make your case before the elected officials. If you live outside Vancouver and would like to speak to council, you can call 604-873-3000. If there are people requesting to speak to this motion, the formal presentation will be referred over to a Thursday committee meeting where you will be given a chance to address the politicians.

Depending on who shows up to council, it could make the difference between the City burying this motion or feeling pressured to listen to community concerns. I have no idea if anyone will actually take the time to register themselves and get on the speakers list, but it’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t given the outpouring of grief we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks.

On a side note, the City is now trying to rush and get the house demolished as quickly as possible. This is despite the fact that access to the home in its current condition might be critical for an effective review into the circumstances that led to the fire. I suspect the City Manager will get her way on this one and Vision will vote to tear down the house at the earliest possible opportunity.

We’ll be watching this closely over the coming week and will report out on any new developments.

- Post by Daniel

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