Crews have started to clean up the aftermath of a Sidney fire that has left a family of three with an uncertain future (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Fire official describes Sidney fire as ‘accidental’

Mike Harman, deputy chief, says cause of fire may be available by Tuesday

An official with the Sidney Volunteer Fire Department says the fire that damaged a Sidney house Saturday afternoon remains under investigation, but is currently “deemed to be accidental.”

Mike Harman, deputy chief, made that observation less than 24 hours after members of three area departments responded to the fire on Beacon Avenue West near the Victoria International Airport. Bob and Janine Taverner were living in the home as renters with their five-year-old daughter Georgia. All three escaped without any injuries, but the fire caused extensive damage to the modest bungalow.

Harman said the man was working in the garage, then left to do an errand, with the wife and child remaining in the home.

“They noticed out the front window smoke and fire,” he said. “They grabbed the family dog, they exited the structure [and] called 911.” When asked about the nature of the work, Harman did not give specifics.

RELATED: Saanich Peninsula rallies around Sidney family with young daughter after fire

“He [the man] said he was just working in his garage,” said Harman. When asked about any possible link between the work in the garage and the fire, Harman said “that part is under investigation.”

Harman added that the department might have an answer about the cause of the fire by Tuesday.

Harman could confirm that the woman heard what one account has described as “a loud bang in the garage” before seeing fire and smoke. “It actually sounded as if a tree had fallen on the house is what she said to me,” said Harman.

The family has received support through the Peninsula Emergency Measures Organization (PEMO). “The emergency social services team has looked after the family for 72 hours,” he said. ‘They provided accommodations, meal vouchers, and we have always looked after getting them some additional clothing and things like that.”

Not one, but two fundraising campaigns are also currently underway to help the family, which moved to Sidney in early August according to the Facebook account of Janine Taverner, whom friends describe as a stay-at-home mom and entrepreneur, who runs her business, Rustic Tavern Illustrations. Bob Taverner works as a truck driver.

According to one of the fundraising campaigns, the fire caused extensive damage to the home, but Harman could not provide a dollar estimate at this stage.

Harman said crews responded to the fire just after 4 p.m. Saturday. About 30 firefighters from three departments — Sidney, North Saanich, and Central Saanich — responded to the incident, either on-site or supplying back up coverage. Sidney/North Saanich RCMP, Central Saanich Police, and British Columbia Ambulance Service also responded.

“We had trucks on-site pretty quick [and] we had the main body of the fire knocked down in about 20 minutes or so,” said Harman, who praised the family’s response to the fire.

“This family knew what to do when they encountered a fire,” he said. “They grabbed themselves, they didn’t grab belongings, they existed the structure, they went to their meeting point, which for them was out on the street, and called 911 right away,” he said.


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