Environmental Centre Target of Arson Amidst A High-Risk Dry Season
Surrey firefighters respond to intentional fires lit around the perimeter of the Brooksdale Environmental Centre, an 28-acre heritage site housing resident staff and operations for environmental not-for-profit A Rocha Canada
SURREY, BRITISH COLUMBIA (July 20, 2021) — Early morning on Saturday, July 17, staff residing at the Brooksdale Environment Centre along 192 St and 16 Ave awoke to the arrival of fire teams and police responding to a 911 call. A passing motorist had reported a sign burning by the property fence.
“When fire trucks arrived, the sandwich board and grass underneath was burning,” said David Anderson, A Rocha Centre Co-Director. “They put it out and then also noticed that our large A Rocha sign on 16 Ave was smoldering. Fire department informed police that these were deliberate, and we spoke to an officer at 6:30 a.m. We’re grateful to the fire department for their swift action, and are surprised that someone would do something so dangerous and destructive.”
While the small fires were successfully contained, centre staff have since hired overnight security to monitor the location due to concerns around the dry season (with fire danger ratings for South Surrey currently at “extreme”) and the safety of families and personnel living on-site. Surrey RCMP are asking for anyone with information regarding these fires to call (604) 599-0502 to contribute to their investigation.
A Rocha Canada has operated at the Brooksdale Environmental Centre, a designated heritage site, since 2010, providing ongoing conservation work, a sustainable agriculture farm program, and environmental education to school-aged children, at-risk youth, and the public at large.
The fire incident occurred amidst discussion around a proposed local area plan (“LAP”) around the South Campbell Heights Special Study Area, which proposes to change the land designation from rural agricultural to ‘employment.’ This area includes the 660 acres surrounding the Brooksdale Environmental Centre and the Little Campbell River runs through the centre of the whole area, critical habitat for salmon and at-risk species and lands upriver from the Semiahmoo First Nations. A Rocha has voiced opposition to the fast-tracked process and proposed plan alongside many other stewards of the river and the rural Hazelmere neighbourhood. Currently over 5000 people have signed a Change.org petition expressing concern about the habitat risks posed for the watershed and the accelerated land use decision process with virtually no opportunity for stakeholder input.
Two other signs were discovered to have been vandalized within days of the fires. A ‘Forests at Risk’ sign just down the road was smashed to pieces, and another petitioning for ‘Rivers at Risk’ was spray-painted over. Both signs were erected by the Little Campbell River Watershed Society to raise support for protecting habitat at risk from industrial development, which would be inevitable should the land rezoning be passed by the City.
The A Rocha team is committed towards the protection of healthy ecosystems for the well-being of all. They are asking that Surrey residents concerned about wild salmon, river health, Semiahmoo Bay, species at risk, and protecting rural agricultural lands contact city leadership to ask for a thorough and collaborative land use plan consultation. The Surrey City Council has now released the July 26 public hearing notice for the South Campbell Heights Special Study Area proposed plan. Letters of concern can be submitted through the City’s Public Hearing Submission Form (hearing item “B.02 Corporate Report No. 2021-R147 | South Campbell Heights Land Use Plan”) until 11:00 am on July 26, ahead of the plan’s potential second reading by council which may allow for public engagement.
About A Rocha Canada
A Rocha is a non-profit international Christian organization working in 21 countries worldwide engaging in scientific research, environmental education, community-based conservation projects and sustainable agriculture. A Rocha Canada operates environmental centres in Surrey, BC, East Braintree, MB, and Hamilton, ON. Learn more at www.arocha.ca.
National Communications Officer
A Rocha Canada
Phone: (778) 994-3264