WATCH: Fire investigators and police comb through scene of explosive Gordon Head fire that destroyed one building and badly damaging two others. Tess van Straaten reports.
Fire investigators spent Tuesday digging through the debris of a five-plex that was completely destroyed in a massive Saanich fire over the long weekend.
The blaze, which is being treated as suspicious, also badly damaged two nearby townhouse buildings leaving 14 people homeless.
“It’s suspicious because the building was under construction and there was no power to the building at the time and there was no construction activity going on the day of the fire,” says Deputy Chief Steve Hanna of Saanich Fire.
The terrifying blaze broke out around 8:30 pm Sunday in the 4,000-block of Cedar Hill Road near University Heights Shopping Centre and sent residents fleeing in fear.
“Everybody was so scared,” resident Jerri-Lynn Sarson told CHEK News. “Huge pile of smoke, flames shooting right up — it was just too close. It was so scary.”
Large explosions rocked the area as propane tanks inside the building blew, sending shock waves throughout the neighbourhood.
“Instantly, it was just covered in flames the whole building, like unreal,” says resident Trish Duran-Cruz. “Everyone was running.”
“We just saw the whole building just up in flames,” adds witness Steven Wicks. “You could just hear the burning.”
The explosive fire sent flames shooting 25 meters into the air and falling embers ignited bushes and trees as billowing black smoke could be seen as far away as the West Shore.
“From my deck I saw a huge plume of smoke and I thought it was much closer than this,” says Chris Cox, who lives near Tillicum Mall. “The sheer size of the smoke made it look much closer.
‘Intense inferno’ melts fire truck engine and the siding on homes across the street
The intense heat from the inferno melted siding on homes across the street and even melted part of the engine on one of the fire trucks.
But incredibly, despite how dangerous the situation was, no one was hurt.
“We’re very lucky and it goes to the initial actions of the crew on arrival,” says Deputy Chief Hanna. “Their idea was to keep the fire contained to the area already burning and we did that. We were very lucky we didn’t lose three buildings to this fire.”
The blaze is just a few meters from Home Depot, where a fire was deliberately set last month. But investigators aren’t yet sure if they’re linked.
“We can appreciate that there is concern because there’s two rather significant fires in close proximity,” says Sgt. Julie Fast of Saanich Police. “This is a top priority for us and we have all our departmental resources working on this to determine the cause.”