Date: May 19, 1932
Headline: “Chinese is Burned to Death in $10,000 Fire Loss at Chinatown.”
Credit: The Chilliwack Progress
“Chinese is Burned to Death in $10,000 Fire Loss at Chinatown.”
Over half of Chinatown, located on the Yale road east of the city, went up in smoke in mid-afternoon Saturday. The fire started at the rear of the Chinese Masonic hall where some cooking operations on a large scale were being carried on. The fire spread to the hall and continued southward until all of the seven buildings in the row were consumed.
One Chinese, Lee Wong, 72, was burned to death. He was seen to enter one of the buildings in an effort to recover some of his belongings, and was not again seen. In the excitement his absence was not noticed for some time. Search was instituted by Sergt. H. M. King and Constable E. A. Jarvis, the body being found very badly burned, under a pile of broken brick and other debris. An inquest was held Monday by Coroner Justinian Pelly.
Chilliwack fire brigade responded to the call for help, but on arrival found that a fire hydrant which the Chinese property owners had installed several years ago, had been removed four weeks ago. It is understood that had water been available most of the property would have been saved.
The Chinese showed great reluctance in attempting to save contents, most of the work of salvage being done by whites. All books and records in the Masonic hall were lost, but four valuable teakwood chairs inlaid with mother of pearl were saved by firemen and others. A half dozen pigs were burned to death, while 75 tons of potatoes were destroyed.
Hip Wo Jung, a well-known Chinese, had $3500 insurance on his property and $1000 was carried on the Chinese Masonic hall. The losses total about $10,000.
The fire drew a very large crowd. Electric current to the Sardis district was practically cut off until late in the evening, when repairs were completed.
Burned shingles and pieces of paper bearing Chinese characters were carried as far was as Major Grossman’s property at Cheam, a distance of six miles.
At the inquest held on Monday the Coroner’s jury brought in the following verdict: “That Lee Wong had came to his death by burning in a building in Chinatown, Sardis, B.C., and we recommend that all buildings be constructed of fireproof material and chimneys built to the ground.” The jurymen were: Harry Hull, foreman: Russell Street, Hugh Mercer, James A. Conn, Duncan Macrae, Gordon M. McAlpine.
According to the evidence given at the inquest, the deceased Chinaman was between seventy and seventy-five years of age, and hard of hearing. He formerly lived at Agassiz.
The fire started at Chin Kan’s place when a pig pen caught fire from a pig feed cooker, according to the evidence given by Hip Wo Jung and Constable Jarvis. According to the latter, there was a hydrant, a roll of fire hose, but no water had been shut off since last October, owning to there being no money to pay for it.
Sert. King and Constable Jarvis testified as to the finding of the body around 8 p.m. after being notified by Hip Wo Jung that the Chinese was missing.