Large fire at Saanich townhouse complex deemed suspicious

Blaze near University Heights shopping mall forces 40 people to leave

Police say a large fire that ripped through a Saanich townhouse complex has been deemed suspicious.

The blaze broke out Sunday night in a development near the University Heights shopping mall.

Sgt. Julie Fast with the Saanich Police Department said the fire is suspicious, and police and fire investigators are looking into the cause.

Fast said in a release that the fire was so intense that the siding on neighbouring homes was melted, a Saanich fire truck sustained heat damage and flying embers sparked small blazes in the area.

People living nearby the townhouse complex reported seeing high flames, and thick, billowing smoke.

Neighbour John Gannon said he also heard explosions.

“A series of pop, pop followed by a very large bang,” Gannon said. “Then when I looked out my window I could see flames and thick pillar of black smoke.”

The fire destroyed or damaged 10 occupied units and some units that were under construction, she said.

No injuries were reported, but about 40 people were evacuated.

Most of the residents returned to their homes Sunday night or Monday morning, and people who cannot return home are getting help to find somewhere else to stay, Fast said.

Investigators are still determining the scope of the fire’s damage.

The Canadian Press