Business owners whose buildings were in proximity to a fire in Williams Lake that destroyed two historical buildings are being forced to relocate as they wait for a prognosis from a structural engineer.
The early morning blaze started in Diamonds and Dust Entertainment Lounge on Friday, Sept. 20 and then spread to New World Tea and Coffee House.
Ricky Li, owner of Ming’s Palace Restaurant, and Brian Garten, owner of Praying Mantis Tattoo, met on Wednesday morning with Ryan Stade, a structural engineer from Kamloops, and the city’s building inspector, Gary Deane, to tour their buildings.
Deane said there will be no easy fix.
“This is like a slow moving train,” he said. “It’s going to be a long process and it’s going to be very involved. We are dealing with six different insurance adjusters and dozens of insurers.”
Li moved from Vanderhoof five years ago and purchased Ming’s Palace Restaurant.
He told the Tribune his customers have been asking when he will re-open, but said he is waiting for an engineer’s report.
“I had five feet of water under the building,” he said. “They pumped it all out and filled 12 tanks.”
Li’s father was living upstairs in one of the apartments when the fire broke out.
“I was asleep at home but my friend who owns the Gecko Tree called me to tell me about the fire. My dad was OK.”
The restaurant’s dishwasher had just moved in to one of the apartments a month ago and there was another person living up there who was already there when Li bought the restaurant.
Garten has relocated his tattoo shop temporarily to the second floor at 240 Oliver St. and plans to be there for at least a month.
Scott and Jessica Smithson, who were Garten’s tenants and owners of Circuits Cell Phone and Tablet Repair located next to the tattoo shop said they are relocating to the former Mary Jane’s Glass and Gifts shop across and up the street.
“We moved over to that spot just over a year ago and we really liked it because there was lots of space and Brian was a really good landlord,” Jessica said.
As far as they know the contents of their shop were not damaged, Scott added.
“There’s definitely some electronic components that we will have to wait and find out about when we start doing repairs again, but for the most part our stuff was all OK,” he said. “Our floors got really wet, but not super flooded. It was definitely worse on Brian’s side.”
Until they get their new shop up and running, the Smithson will have a work station set up at Sandtronics, Brian said.
Next to the tattoo shop were Creative Scizzor and Esquire Barber Shop in a building owned by Lou Dionne since 1973.
“My wife, Madeline, had a sister here and we wanted to get away from the Coast when we saw the barber shop was up for sale,” he said of what brought them to Williams Lake. “It’s been great ever since. We raised our two children here and then they went away to go to university.”
Madeline was one of the founder’s of the hospice society in Williams Lake, he added.
“This building is like home,” Dionne said. “Whenever I’d be tired or had problems I’d always go in the back of the shop and meditate — it was my place to be. I did the janitor work and the clean up as it kept me busy in my retirement.”
The building would have turned 100 in 2021 and was originally a butcher shop before it became a barber shop, he added.
Twenty-five years ago Dionne hired Shelley Hilts to work for him in the barbershop and she’s been there ever since.
On Thursday morning they met outside the building along with Bonnie Filgate, who has worked at the barbershop for 17 years, and Trina Forcier who has owned Creative Scizzor since 1993.
“We’ve all been together for a long time and we are going to miss it,” Hilts said.
Fighting back the tears, Forcier said Dionne has been an excellent landlord.
“He looked after us all very well and we are going to really miss it,” Forcier said.
Forcier will be moving to HairPro on Second Avenue North.
“I will have the same phone number and I will be in there soon.”
Hilts and Filgate will be moving into another business, Chris Barbershop, on Third Avenue North, but said it feels weird after so many years to be moving.
“We should be ready to go by next week,” Filgate said.
For anyone wondering where the moose head went that was in the barber shop, Hilts said it is at her home.
“It was mine and was given to me.”
Dionne said the four of them have been like a family.
The cause of the fire continues to be investigated jointly by the Williams Lake RCMP and the Williams Lake Fire Dept.
Gary Muraca, director of municipal services, said the city is working closely with property insurers regarding any possible contamination from the water.
“Our storm infrastructure will be cleaned out to ensure any hazardous material that could have entered the catch basin through the firefighting efforts will not end up in surrounding water ways,” he said.
The water in basements of the affected properties is being removed by the insurers and disposed of off-site in a manner that will meet applicable regulations, Muraca added.
On Wednesday morning the water was turned off by city crews.