At least a dozen people are being housed elsewhere tonight after fire ripped through a section of the Briarwood apartment complex at 1253 Johnson St. late Saturday afternoon.
The fire started in one of the townhouse suites but affected six units, leaving the complex operator, Pacifica Housing, to scramble to find temporary lodging for five families, according to Pacifica executive director Dean Fortin.
“(There is) 12 to 14 people in all who won’t be able to come back in immediately, some for a long time,” he said, adding that luckily no residents were hurt as a result of the fire. One firefighter sustained a hand injury and was sent to hopsital for treatment.
The unit where the fire began was empty at the time. It and one next door suffered major water damage, while four other adjacent units were affected by smoke and or water. Pacifica was working with the fire department to look at the extent of the damage and determine next steps.
Given that the building is right beside the rear of Victoria Fire Department’s No. 1 fire hall, crews were able to arrive on scene very quickly after the 911 call came in shortly after 4 p.m. The exact cause was still under investigation at the time of this writing.
With hotels in the high season, the immediate challenge was to find accommodation for the next three days, a task taken on by the city’s emergency management department. “But it’s one of those things where everybody seems to kick in and do what they can to make it happen,” Fortin said.
In terms of relocating people, doing so within the Pacifica network of homes will be difficult, but finding spaces for them somewhere in the region will be made a priority, he said.
“It’s desperate and dire out there, it really is. At Pacifica Housing we have a 0.02 vacancy rate; we have four units that come vacant once a month for 1,500 units that we have.”
Fortin noted that they may well call on one of the other subsidized housing providers in the region to help out. “There’s a great camaraderie with all the other service providers … everybody does what they can to help the families out,” he said.
Fires that cause displacement of tenants in Pacifica Housing units are “very rare,” Fortin said. The fire caused an estimated $300,000 damage to the building, which like the rest of the complex just had a new roof installed.