The owners of Pioneer Square Mall in Mill Bay, which burned to the ground on May 27, believe vandals started the fire.
Mike Baier, the co-owner of the Limona Group which owns the six-acre mall property, said there’s no doubt in his mind that the cause of the blaze was arson.
He said there have already been four fires at the mall, located at Shawnigan-Mill Bay Road and the Trans-Canada Highway, in recent months; three that required the assistance of local fire halls to extinguish and one that he and other company officials put out themselves.
“Vandals had cleaned out anything of value in the building and broke every window,” Baier said.
“We boarded up the windows and then they’d come with chainsaws and cut their way through, and then we’d re-board the windows and they’d cut through them again. I’m assuming there was more than one of them, but I don’t know. The police are investigating.”
Baier said the timing of the fire, which raged for nine hours and closed down the Trans-Canada Highway in both directions as firefighters from six departments fought the blaze, was most unfortunate as the company was preparing to deconstruct the building, which has stood empty and boarded up for many months.
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“We intended to salvage the timber and other useful materials and deconstruct it in an environmentally friendly way, but the vandals beat us to the punch,” he said.
“The Ministry of Environment, WorkSafe and other agencies are involved now after the fire, so we’re working our way through all that before we can move forward. I’d like to thank the fire departments and first responders that helped put the fire out. I’m thrilled that no one was hurt.”
Baier said the Limona Group plans to build a brand new, 100,000 sq. ft. mall at the site, as well as a seniors’ complex on another six acres it owns adjacent to the mall property.
He said the company owns a total of 150 acres in that area and is planning to build a housing development and rental condos as well.
“We’ll start on these projects as soon as we get a water licence from the province,” Baier said.
“But we’ve already been waiting for that for two years.”