VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A fire in Vancouver has left several business owners in the Cambie corridor crushed.
Flames were still visible several hours after they erupted along the east side of Cambie Street, between 23rd and King Edward avenues.
The owners of a pharmacy on the block said they received a notification from the alarm system early Thursday morning that a sensor had been triggered.
Normally, it’s just a mouse that sets the alarm off, they said. But when they arrived to their business, they were met by fire crews.
“They realized it was more than a mouse going over a sensor. It’s our family’s livelihood that’s been put up in flames,” Natasha Jakac-Sinclair, whose mother co-owned the Cambie Pharmasave for 15 years, explained.
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She says the pharmacy played a big role within the community.
“This is more than just a pharmacy, it was a place for the community to come to and talk, and have coffee, and hang out, and just feel like a part of a family. That’s what’s missing here, not just the pharmacy,” Natasha told reporters.
Co-owner Nelli Jakac was in tears Thursday when she shared memories from when the Canada Line was being built for the 2010 Olympics.
Nelli would wake up early to make coffee and sandwiches for the construction workers, her son recalled.
“I fed them, that was my only source of income at that time. All down the Canada Line, and this is 15 years of hard work to support my children,” Nelli said, crying. “We left the pharmacy yesterday, flu shots and everything, and I told my head pharmacist, Kenji, ‘You know, I love you. You are the best. We work so well together, we’re a community.'”
But now, her business is among several others that have been described as total losses because of the early-morning blaze.
A single mom, Nelli said her business was her and her kids’ livelihood. She’s been through it all, from robberies and violence, to working late hours, but having to rebuild is a daunting task, she said.
“It’s like losing a child. I’m devastated,” Nelli added.
However, Nelli is determined to rebuild, and said now is about looking forward.
“I’m not going to go anywhere. I’m on my knees right now, but I will pick myself up and I’ll build another one,” she said.
Cause of fire unknown
Firefighters say the cause of Thursday morning’s blaze is still unknown. The fire has claimed at least five businesses along the block, including restaurants.
Crews believe the fire started at the back of a café around 2 a.m. It forced the closure of Cambie Street and King Edward Avenue, as well as several blocks surrounding that intersection.
There have been no reports of any injuries.
Businesses dealt another blow
The fire comes at an already challenging time for businesses hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Cambie Village Business Association said there was a lot of concern for the businesses in the building that went up in smoke early Thursday.
“[Businesses] are just barely trying to survive,” Rania Hatz, the executive director of the Cambie Village Business Association, said.
“We have had assistance with the City of Vancouver to create a patio space in front of two of the businesses that will be affected … Even with that, the businesses are barely hanging on. We have one board member on that block and we as a business association rely on different businesses with space to store some products for us or store some things for us.”