Cigarettes ignite Bent Mast porch

James Bay pub on fire Thursday morning

Carelessly tossed cigarettes are to blame for a fire on the front porch of the Bent Mast Pub in James Bay Thursday morning.

Arson was initially considered as the reason behind the charred porch, but as the investigation into the fire continued, suspicious circumstances were ruled out, said Victoria Fire Department’s fire prevention officer and investigator Bonnie Barratt.

“You always get all kinds of interesting and very good information,” Barratt said, referring to witness reports that the fire might have been deliberately set, “but in the end it’s the investigation and the science that make the case.”

At 4:30 a.m. on Thursday, neighbours near the pub alerted fire crews to a fire burning at the building, at 512 Simcoe St.

Seventeen firefighters and Barratt arrived in six vehicles. They took a “fast attack” approach on the blaze, said firefighter Clint Cole.

“A rig comes in and starts fighting the fire directly without stringing into a hydrant,” he explained. The fast attack is used when a fire needs to be contained right away, from the building’s exterior.

“It was a really good call by the battalion chief,” Cole said.

By Friday afternoon, workers were cleaning up the pub, which was still surrounded by yellow police tape.

In the end, it is estimated the fire did $10,000 in damage.

Hot cigarette butts landed in bark mulch next to the old pub, on the Toronto Street side.

“The fire crews did an amazing job,” Barratt said. “This one could have been a catastrophe – it could have gone through the basement and (done serious damage) but they hit it quickly.”