Two officers were transported to hospital and one man is in custody after an early morning fire in the 2500-block of Blanshard Street.
Shortly after 4 a.m. Victoria Police patrol officers were called to the townhouse complex for the initial report of a dispute in the unit. Officers entered the suite and found the interior of the house to be on fire with multiple residents inside.
Officers were able to safely remove all residents from the suite and attempted to extinguish the fire, but it was too involved. Additional officers assisted with evacuating surrounding units as the fire quickly spread to the neighbouring suites.
According to police one male was taken into custody by officers on scene and there is no reason to believe that the public is at risk.
Victoria Fire and Emergency Health Services attended and transported two officers to hospital as a precaution for smoke inhalation. At this time the damage appears to be extensive at this point and police say the majority of the residents have been relocated to alternate residences as the suites are not inhabitable.
Officers with VicPD’s Major Crime Unit and Forensic Identification Section attended and are continuing their investigation as it is in the early stages. According to police there is no information to indicate this fire is related to any other fires in the Victoria area, including the Old Plaza Hotel.
Victoria Fire Battalion Chief Wayne Moody said crews believe the blaze was deliberately started.
He says he can’t comment if someone was taken out in cuffs but says he believes the fire was deliberately started and there will be a police investigation pic.twitter.com/lYNC9IHHUi— kendra crighton (@kendracrighton) May 17, 2019
According to Moody, fire crews were called to the scene at 4:09 a.m.
“We had a fully involved fire in one of the suites,” he noted. “We had it pretty well knocked down from the interior but with the strong winds the fire got into the attic space and started travelling north into the adjoining suites.”
Crews battled the fire from the inside and the outside as well as the roof. Moody noted crews were most successful battling the blaze from the roof.
“I believe this is a deliberately set fire,” he said. “Police were called to this scene and people were in the suite when the fire occurred.”
At this time, it’s undetermined as to where the fire started in the suite but everyone in the entire row of suites was evacuated and no one was hurt in the blaze besides the two officers taken to hospital as a precaution.
A BC Transit bus arrived on scene at about 4:25 a.m. to provide shelter for the evacuees.
Olympia Koziatek, Victoria Fire Emergency Management, said the evacuees will most likely be taken to a hotel for the next three days while the investigation takes place.
Emergency Support Services were on scene handing out blankets to the evacuees.
One of the evacuees, who wished to remain anonymous, was visiting one of the residents in the townhouse complex and was staying in the unit directly beside the suite in question.
“The cops started yelling to get everybody out and then we picked up our kids and got the other people who were staying in the house out,” she said.
The mom of two said evacuees were moved to the front exterior of the building and then asked to either move to a nearby Subway restaurant or stand on the other side of the street.
“Just from that short period of time, the flames were bursting through the windows and through the roof.”
A resident tells me the apartment where the flames started has been the subject of numerous police visits. He says the people living in the apartment were heavy partiers.— kendra crighton (@kendracrighton) May 17, 2019
She couldn’t smell smoke until her family had been evacuated and were standing outside, watching the fire.
“It ended up spreading to the right side of the unit and we were in the left side,” she said. “There were large flames, big balls of black smoke, you heard glass crashing and things breaking inside the house.”
If you have any information, or witnessed anything this morning police are asking you call 250-995-7654.
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