Heavy smoke took over an hour to extinguish after a fire ripped through an Esquimalt apartment building Sunday afternoon. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Esquimalt apartment fire caused by human error

The fatal fire started in the victim’s unit

The exact cause of Sunday’s fatal fire on Craigflower Road is still under investigation, but the Esquimalt Fire Department has determined it was not set intentionally.

“It does appear to be accidental, some kind of human activity that caused the fire,” said Fire Chief Chris Jancowski, who noted that final details will be coming out in a report. “It started in a fourth floor unit in the north-east corner.”

This was the same unit where the only victim, Judith Rose Burke, lived. Burke was seen trapped on her balcony as neighbours tried to coax her down by holding blankets, but the attempt was unsuccessful.

ALSO READ: One woman confirmed dead following Esquimalt fire

“In this case, the fire developed quite well inside the unit before flames were seen outside,” Jancowski said. “The amount of build up really prevented people from leaving from the fourth floor, forcing them onto the balcony.”

The Esquimalt Fire Department, CFB Esquimalt Fire Department, the Victoria Fire Department and the View Royal Fire Rescue attended the scene, using ladder rescue techniques to assist the rest of the people trapped on the balconies.

Some people received minor cuts on their wrists and legs from the ladders, and one firefighter from the Esquimalt Fire Department sustained a shoulder injury.

Most of the building was not burned.

“Most of the fire damage was confined to that unit and hallway, with water damage affecting the first, second and third floor,” Jancowski said.

ALSO READ: Fund launched for victims of fatal Esquimalt apartment fire

Jancowski said that a major problem with the building was that it had no fire sprinklers installed.

“Buildings of that vintage, from the 1960s and ‘70s, didn’t have sprinklers because it wasn’t part of the building code,” Jancowski explained. “Luckily, it did have a fire alarm system that worked very well.”

Currently, Belmont Properties is assessing the extent of the damage. Tenants are not able to return to their units at this time.

After the fire was controlled, firefighters entered the building to retrieve vital medications. Firefighters also searched units for pets and found several fish and cats who were unharmed and okay to stay in the units at the time. Firefighters fed the pets and took note of their locations.

Building residents will likely be able to re-enter the building on Friday or Saturday to retrieve possessions. It’s unknown if or when they will be able to return to live in their units.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Just Posted

Victoria student out $600 for lack of e-bike insurance blames confusing rules

B.C. regulation says e-bike motors must turn off if rider stops pedalling, or bike must be insured

Flat tire, kindness of strangers, surprisingly inflate hope

Sooke mom and her daughters knocked on door of Bob and Norma Saunders seeking help

Oak Bay grants 60 days of protection for century-old mansion

J.W. Morris House slated for removal by Abstract Developments

Saanich police ask for public’s help locating missing high risk youth

The 12-year-old was last seen before school on Monday morning

Sealand was much more than killer whales, says ex-employee

Former Sealasd trainer revisits Sealand of the Pacific in talk

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of September 17

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Should the province step in to upgrade the road to Bamfield?

The death of two University of Victoria students on a bus bound… Continue reading

B.C. ‘tent city’ disputes spark call for local government autonomy

UBCM backs Maple Ridge after province overrules city

B.C. drug dealers arrested after traffic stop near Banff turns into helicopter pursuit

Antonio Nolasco-Padia, 23, and Dina Anthony, 55, both well-known to Chilliwack law enforcement

B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

Todd Stone, Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, introduced an anti-vaping bill in April

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

Sooke athletes win gold at 55+ Games

Myrtle Acton, 86, leads way with three first place finishes

Most Read