Cordova Bay Tru Value grocery reopens after New Year’s Day fire

A glass four-door freezer unit started smoking and then caught fire at 10:10 a.m., about 10 minutes after opening on New Year's Day

Tru Value Foods grocery in Cordova Bay reopened today after a fire erupted in a freezer case on New Year’s Day.

A glass four-door freezer unit started smoking and then caught fire at 10:10 a.m., about 10 minutes after the store opened for the day. Two staff members hit the flames with a dry chemical extinguisher and the store was evacuated. Saanich firefighters also hit the freezer unit with an extinguisher.

“Our staff reacted and responded so well, and executed things perfectly. They evacuated the store and used a fire extinguisher and hit (the fire) immediately,” said Phil Greenhalgh, general manager for Tru Value Foods. “It was fortunate people were here, or it would have been another story.”

Saanich assistant fire chief Rich Pala also lauded the quick action of Tru Value staff.

“Staff did an excellent job containing the fire. Some of the bags had caught fire. Moulding around the door fell and ignited the bags,” he said.

Pala said three grocery store staff members near the freezer case during the fire received oxygen and a check by paramedics, as a precaution. Nobody was injured in the fire.

Fire was contained to the freezer unit. Greenhalgh said the store could have reopened the same afternoon after inspections by Island Health, Saanich fire and the refrigeration company, but they decided to air out the store.

“We had a big mess to clean up,” he said. “It was too bad. A lot of people came to the doors on New Years Day.”

Pala said the fire is accidental and caused by a florescent light tube in the case. The tube was either not properly installed or it’s ballast, the component that controls current entering the tube, failed, causing the light to heat up. This type of fire is not common, he said.

“If the light isn’t properly seated, it can cause localized arcing. There were burns at the end of the light fixture. Or else the ballast had failed,” he said. “It could have been at the end of its life span.”

Tru Value is waiting for an estimate from its insurance company on the dollar value of the damage. The store lost the fridge unit, and all the frozen french fries and waffles in the case.

“We’ve got to order more fries,” Greenhalgh said.