“It is terrifying to go to bed with a job and wake up without one.”
Morgana Braveraven and 24 of her co-workers woke up Friday morning to find an arsonist had torched their workplace, the ABC Country Restaurant on Maple Street, attached to the Accent Inns hotel.
“It is absolutely devastating and mortifying. These are people with families, people with financial obligations, people who live paycheque to paycheque,” said Braveraven, a supervisor and former hiring manager at the two-year-old restaurant.
And then, out of the ashes, support for the displaced ABC staff started to pour in.
Braveraven posted an ad on Craigslist Saturday morning, appealing to fellow managers in Greater Victoria who are looking to hire “stellar team members who are punctual, reliable, fun to work with, and who thrive in a very fast paced environment.”
Half a dozen employers – from restaurants and cafes to adventure tourism operators – replied to the ad by Monday.
“It warms my heart to no end the outpouring of support from the local community,” she said.
The ABC Country Restaurant at the corner of Burnside Road and Douglas Street is rejigging its schedule to offer shifts to as many employees as possible.
Saanich police said on Monday they are still trying to link five arsons in a span of 12 hours in the municipality.
Saanich fire crews found wooden pallets and two dumpsters with garbage on fire in an alley near Dupplin Avenue and Douglas Street at about 9:45 p.m. on Thursday.
Fire crews responded to a dumpster fire a the ABC restaurant at 10:50 p.m., but it quickly spread to the structure. The hotel was evacuated and none of the staff or guests were injured.
Then at 2 a.m., Saanich fire responded to a wooden backyard shed engulfed in flames in the 100-block of Burnside Road East, at the corner of Irma Street.
Fifteen minutes later, Saanich and Victoria crews, 22 firefighters in all, responded to a structure fire in the 3300-block of Whittier Avenue. Around 8:30 a.m. Friday, a fifth fire was found in the 3200-block of Eldon St., which is one block from the wooden shed fire.
Police arrested a 25-year-old man early Friday morning, but he has since been released without charges.
Sgt. Steve Eassie says he remains “a person of interest.” Because the Whittier Avenue fire began after police had arrested this person of interest, Eassie said investigators “believe there is a probability of another person involved.”
For the ABC staff, many now jobless, the future is looking slightly brighter, thanks to the goodwill of Victorians, Braveraven said.
“We’d like to thank the Victoria community, the business community, on behalf of all the staff, management team and owners, for their tremendous support in this challenging time for us,” she said. “Our hope and our goal is to rebuild.”
– with files from Edward Hill