A faulty electrical appliance likely caused the fire that killed one Saanich resident and rendered large parts of an apartment building uninhabitable last week.
Capt. Jerry Tomljenovic of the Saanich Fire Department said a powerbar failed in the unit of the woman, who later died. Crews found her in the hallway of the fourth floor, where the fire had broken out. She later succumbed to her injuries. Two other residents were sent to hospital, suffering from smoke inhalation. Officials have not yet released the name of the woman said to be in her 60s.
Tomljenovic identified the failed appliance as a power bar, but added that additional forensic investigations will take place for insurance purposes. This said, local investigators are confident that the cause of the fire was a failed electrical appliance, he said.
Tomljenovic made the comments during a Saanich Fire Department media availability to discuss its investigation into the fire that tore through an apartment building in the 2600-block of Richmond Road during the early morning hours of June 21.
“The investigation showed that the fire was likely caused by an electrical appliance failure, possibly a small space heater, speaker or a failed power bar,” said the department in a release prior to the briefing. But investigators have also tempered this conclusion. “However, further investigation will be required and these items have been taken for further forensic examination,” it added.
The building had passed a fire inspection as recently as May 8, 2019, by the Saanich Fire Department. Tomljenovic said the department inspects buildings like it twice a year, adding later that the department does not inspect private room, but rather the larger public safety features part of the building.
The four-storey apartment building sustained what the release described as “heavy damage” from the fourth-floor fire, which drew out crews from three departments.
Of the 85 units, 31 units remain uninhabitable. “Residents from the remaining suites have been able to return home,” it reads. Emergency Social Services is assisting 22 displaced residents until Thursday morning, before transitioning support for these residents to relevant agencies.
Tomljenovic said he could not comment on the long-term future of the building. This said, he said plans call for the destroyed units to be restored and the remaining units are safe. He also used the occasion to remind the public to check their appliances for any defect and prepare themselves.
“It was always a tragedy when a person loses [his or her] life in a fire,” he said. “What we do like people…to be mindful of, is have a home escape plan. Know your home. Know how to get out of it. Practice it.”