Richmond exhibit explores the history of the 1918 Steveston Fire

Just as the First World War was coming to an end in 1918, tragedy struck Steveston.

A devastating fire ravaged Steveston and the Richmond Cultural Centre is hosting a pictorial exhibition to examine the events of that day and to remember all that was, and all who were, lost.

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The fire of May 14, 1918 was one of the worst in Richmond's history. At that time, Steveston was a booming industrial village and many wood framed salmon canneries, along with wooden housing for workers, were built there in high density plots.

"(They were) heated by wood stoves and lit with coal oil lamps. That, combined with minimal or non-existent fire protection, made the place a tinder box," the city said.

The fire is alleged to have started in the Chinese cookhouse in the Star Cannery and quickly spread, due to strong winds. The inferno destroyed most of the buildings between No. 1 Road and Third Avenue and many buildings south of Moncton Street.

The fire engulfed three canneries and three hotels, and about 600 Japanese, Chinese and First Nations workers and their families were made homeless in the blink of an eye. The total damage amounted to $500,000.

The exhibition showcases some of the pictures documenting the fire at the time and the people who experienced it. The photos are from the City of Richmond Archives and The Friends of The Richmond Archives.

The display is in the cultural centre at 7700 Minoru Gate for the foreseeable future.

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