Neighbours praise regional fire departments for saving nearby houses and parkland after a massive fire tore through an uninhabited Oak Bay house June 3.
“It was ripping,” said Gordon Marshall, Oak Bay Assistant Fire Chief, “through the whole upper floors from one side of the house to the other and out the roof.”
The Oak Bay, Saanich, and Victoria fire departments tackled the blaze at 57 Beach Drive for four hours from around 10:30 p.m. to just after 2 a.m. Monday morning. More than 20 crew members helped fight the blaze.
A previous fire at the same residence in 2013 further complicated matters as it left the building structurally unsafe to enter.
One Oak Bay firefighter was taken to hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation.
“He’s been released from hospital. He’s recovering from minor smoke inhalation,” said Fire Chief Dave Cockle. “Our expectation is that he’ll be back at work on the next shift.”
Great Firefighting work last night by @OakBayFireDept @VictoriaFire730 @SaanichFire on a difficult access house fire. Clear common radio communications and dispatch ensured quick and safe #teamwork by FF’s #mutualaid #proudchief @DistrictOakBay @CityOfVictoria @saanich pic.twitter.com/B1JreHe00l
— Dan Wood (@firechiefwood) June 4, 2018
Neighbour Karen Brook says police came to the house to let them know about the fire.
“Knowing the history of this house and that it had gone up in flames before we were up and dressed and prepared,” Brook said.
She and her husband watched the fire from nearby Sylvan Lane and could see “flames shooting out sideways.”
“Luckily for the community and this hill, the fire departments of Saanich and Oak Bay took good care of the trees, the embers and got a handle on the fire or the whole hill would have probably followed suit,” Brook said. “Who hasn’t thought about Fort McMurray and just how quickly things spread when you’ve got trees of this height and dryness. If this had been summer who knows how far this could have gone.”
Neighbour Christine McAuley had to evacuate overnight with her family.
“I never realized how loud a fire can be. It was pretty scary,” says McAuley, whose husband called 911 after seeing the fire around 10:30 p.m.
There are just a few trees between the two neighbouring properties – trees McAuley thought were on fire because the fire was so big and there was so much smoke.
“We grabbed our dogs and daughter and left the house,” she said.
“I just wanted to express how nerve-wracking it was being a neighbour to a house that actually has been empty for a number of years and probably should have been demolished years ago,” McAuley said.
Oak Bay fire and police keep an eye on empty buildings and there is a bylaw ensuring buildings are secure, said Cockle. The owner of the house, who purchased it in 2015, has been compliant with those bylaws, he added.
A building permit to rebuild the home was approved in February, said Cockle.
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