Fire destroys Fulford Harbour building

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Vortex property developer Merchant House Capital is planning to take its Fulford Harbour project known as the Vortex off the back burner soon, in spite of a recent fire that could change some of the plans for the site.

A small derelict house on part of the property was completely destroyed by fire in the early hours of Feb. 25. Salt Spring resident and Merchant House Capital principal David Fullbrook said he was unaware of the fire until he got a call from police that morning.

“I was quite upset, just because I had a plan for that structure,” Fullbrook said. “I think it’s unfortunate and disappointing because it’s such a needless event to have occurred.” “It’s not going to deter our project,” he added.

Salt Spring Fire Rescue Captain Mitchell Sherrin received a call about the fire around 2 a.m. on Feb. 25, and he was the first to arrive on scene. He wasn’t sure how serious it would be since only one person had called it in and their information was vague because they couldn’t actually see the fire from where they were. Once Sherrin arrived, though, he could see the house was fully involved.

“The roof had already burned off and there were flames coming out of every window,” Sherrin said. “The walls were still standing but they weren’t going to be for long.”

The destroyed house had not been occupied for many years. The body of presumed squatter Joseph Bernie was discovered by the nearby Fulford Creek in 2015. Police believed he had been attacked inside the house, but the case was never solved.

A crew of 12 firefighters attended the fire with three apparatus. They were on site until 6 a.m. and used the tender shuttle system to bring water from the Fulford fire hall. RCMP and BC Ambulance Service personnel were also on scene.

Sherrin said not much was left of the house to aid an investigation. There did not to appear to be any people nearby at the time. 

“There was way too much damage for us to determine what the cause was,” he said. 

Merchant House Capital is currently partway through an Islands Trust development permit process to build the Vortex, which is to incorporate commercial accommodation units, a restaurant and retail sales on the former Fulford Inn site. While the destroyed house was on part of a lot that has rural zoning, Fullbrook said this team was intending to renovate and were looking into how they might use the space. Some ideas that have come up are creating staff housing for employees that will work at the Vortex, or to create a cultural centre for the Tsawout First Nation.

For more on this story, see the March 10, 2021 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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