Business owner who predicted homeless camp fire asks for compensation

Owner of Master Lee's Tae Kwon Do School warned about possibility of fire in adjacent homeless camp months before it happened.

A fire scorched a tree next to Master Lee's Tae Kwon Do school

The owner of a business whose warnings about the fire hazard in a neighbouring property went unheeded is asking for compensation to help pay for damage from a blaze in October.

Seung Yong Lee, who runs Master Lee’s Tae Kwon Do School on Allwood Street, says his business sustained $6,000 in damage after a fire in a homeless camp on the neighbouring site of the former Allwood Estates mobile home park.

Prior to the fire, Lee contacted both the property’s owner, Onni Group, and the City of Abbotsford to warn about the risk of a blaze next door. In August, he showed a reporter from The News a homeless camp abutting a tree which stood just feet from his business. The site, which was vacant but home to multiple homeless encampments, had already seen several fires break out.

“If a fire happens again, it could get to our building,” Lee told The News in August.

Two months later, his prediction came true, and his building sustained water damage during a fire which climbed the tree and shot flames up to 30 feet into the air.

Lee said he has fire insurance, but is reluctant to use it because his premiums would substantially increase.

He said that given the source of the blaze, and the multiple warnings provided before it broke out, the city, the property developer, or both, should cover the costs. Lee has collected more than 230 names on a petition calling for compensations. Signatories include parents of students, along with neighbouring businesses.

Lee said he has worked to keep fees at his school down, but that the cost of dealing with the fire threatens that.

The damage, he said, “is not a big amount to Onni, but it’s a big amount to me.”

While he said he has been told that fees associated with taking the issue to court could be more than the money he’s seeking. Lee has met with Mayor Henry Braun and city manager George Murray both in private and with parents of his students. He said his case boils down to the fact that it’s incumbent upon property owners and the city to respond when warned about fire risks that endanger neighbours.

“They have to get the message,” he said.

Braun, for his part, said the city had met its obligation in trying to get Onni to clean up the site prior to the fire. He said “thousands of dollars” of  fines had been levied.

He said he had encouraged Onni to help Lee, but said that for the city to pay costs associated with a fire would set a bad precedent.

Meanwhile, Lee remains concerned about the property. Onni has been undertaking construction on the site over the last month, and it’s no longer being used by the homeless. But he worries that if work on the property stops, homeless camps may return. He would like to see the neighbouring trees removed to reduce the fire risk.

Braun said Onni has been directed to remove one particular tree close to the city that has been deemed a danger.

Representatives from Onni did not respond to an interview request.

Just Posted

Abbotsford Panthers celebrate 35th anniversary of title with win

Panthers come from behind to defeat Notre Dame, Mouat edges Bateman in exhibition action

Two parks left in contest to crown Abbotsford’s favourite; Round 4 bracket results

After four rounds, one park chosen to face-off against Mill Lake Park in final

Vehicle accident on Sumas and South Fraser Way intersection

Southbound traffic on Sumas Way slow as the right lane is blocked

New wine patios clear hurdle in Abbotsford

Ripples Winery and Maan Farms Estate Winery each hope to create patios for drinkers

Abbotsford police searching for missing local man

David Cole’s family have not heard from him since early September

VIDEO: Drone footage documents work to free salmon at Big Bar landslide

Video shows crews working to remove rocks and wood, and transporting salmon by helicopter

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Grand opening of Molson Coors Fraser Valley Brewery at Chilliwack cause for celebration

Ribbon-cutting with dignitaries, Molson brass and family marked the official grand opening

B.C. cabinet minister denies that Surrey mayor’s friend attended government meeting

Surrey councillor questions Vancouver businessman Bob Cheema’s involvement in official meeting

Rick Mercer calls out Conservative candidate in B.C. for fake meme

‘Not true. All fake. Please Stop,’ tweeted Rick Mercer in response

Bear killed in Kimberley after chasing girl, wreaking havoc on town

This particular brown-coloured bear has been the subject of many calls this summer; very food habituated, CO says

Powder the muskets, zombies are coming!

Fort Langley National Historic Site offers up A Survivalist’s Guide to a Zombie Apocalypse, Sept. 28

Petition to rename park after teen overdose victim to get hearing

With 3,500 signatures so far, organizer is thinking of closing down online campaign

Police investigate after intoxicated teens clash with security at B.C. fair

18-year-old woman arrested and RCMP looking at possible assault in Victoria-area fall fair incident

Most Read