A house on Lewis Avenue in Courtenay suffered extensive damage after a fire broke out just past midnight Thursday night.
“We got the call at 12:30 (a.m. Friday),” said Courtenay Fire Chief Don Bardonnex. “[The fire originated] in an addition on the back of the house.
“The addition is pretty much done - I am fairly certain they [homeowners] will have to rip that off and rebuild it. But the addition was built on the exterior of the old house and fortunately for them, they left the old exterior door as a door between the addition and the kitchen, and that was closed. So there’s smoke damage in the original portion of the house … but it’s still quite salvageable.”
Aurora Schieszer, who lives in the neighbourhood, captured video of the blaze.
Twenty-seven firefighters from the Courtenay Fire Department attended the blaze, which was quickly subdued. The home was unoccupied at the time of the blaze.
“It was through the roof on my arrival and the crews had the fire suppressed in just over two minutes after my arrival,” said Bardonnex. “The call came in that there was potential for the occupant to be in there. So crews went in, did a primary search and found nothing. The fire was suppressed at the same time and once the fire was suppressed they did a secondary search and still came up with nothing. No occupants, and none of our crew were injured.”
Bardonnex credited the extensive training his firefighters endure for the quickness of the suppression.
“I have to say the proficiency that the guys were showing last night is a testament to the scenario-based training that has been afforded us through the Fire Training Centre over the past few years. It’s really beginning to show on their performance.”
The cause of the fire has not yet been determined. RCMP and fire investigators were still on the scene, late Friday morning.
“It (arson) is possible - that’s what we are investigating,” he said. “I’m not going to jump out and say ‘oh yeah, this fire is an arson,’ but we are definitely investigating it from both sides - fire crews and RCMP are on scene.”
When asked if there was evidence of accelerant used to start the blaze, Bardonnex was noncommittal.
“I don’t ever guess,” he said. “If things look a little off, we involve the RCMP, even though 50 per cent of that time, it turns out that it is not a criminal act. But if there’s something off, we involve them right off the bat.”
There have been numerous suspicious residential fires in the same (southwest) area of the city in the past couple of years. Cpl. Tori Cliffe of the Comox Valley RCMP downplayed any speculation of a firebug in the community.
“It is being investigated as a suspicious fire, but there is nothing to indicate anything more on that point [at this time],” she said. “There is nothing to this point that is causing us to believe anything here is related any… previous events.”