Condo fire proves complex

After being rescued by firefighters, Princess the cat rested calmly in the arms of Linda Miller, chair of the strata at 1149 Rockland Ave., which caught fire Monday morning.

There’s still another cat hiding in unit 309, said Miller at 11 a.m., more than an hour after the fire began in the unit directly above and spread to others.

Meanwhile, Victoria’s emergency co-ordinator, Robert Johns, arrived to help the evacuees. Residents, many of whom are elderly, kept warm in the condo building next door, including the cats’ owner.

Fourteen members from the Saanich and Oak Bay fire departments added to Victoria’s 19.

Hours later, three crews were still on scene at what Victoria fire department battalion chief Mike Stark called a “challenging fire.”

“It had gotten into the plumbing cases where all the pipes run,” said Stark. “We had crews on four different floors … pulling drywall to catch the fire and stop it in its tracks.”

Using thermal imaging cameras, firefighters scanned the building to ensure the fire wasn’t still smoldering anywhere along the pipes.

“We have to be really diligent,” Stark said. “It’s so easy — you can think you got it and a couple of hours later, you’re right back at it again.”

The fire started when a plumber ignited insulation behind the drywall when using a torch on the fourth floor.

As of 3 p.m., Stark estimated 12 to 14 suites were heavily damaged, adding crews will continue to pull drywall for several hours.

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