A thick cloud of smoke filled the air over Victoria’s Gorge Waterway Saturday morning, after a wooden boat burst into flames near Banfield Park in Vic West.
Victoria firefighters responded to the call just after 9:30am. Crews from the department’s fire boat boarded the smoking vessel and extinguished a blaze in the engine compartment.
“We saw a bit of flame and lots of smoke, the firefighter put water on it just to get it knocked down then he searched the boat to see if there were any occupants on the boat, he didn’t find any,” said Capt. Brian Elvedahl.
The fast response likely prevented another boat from going to the bottom on the stretch of water where two derelicts have sunk in recent years, where one overturned hull can still be seen jutting from the water just meters away from this morning’s fire.
After years of process, the City of Victoria is promising action on the derelict and liveaboard boats in the area is coming soon.
After a bylaw passed in May, limiting anchoring on the Gorge to 72 hours in a 30 day period, the city gave notice to people living on board the estimated 25 boats anchoring in the waterway, asking them to be out by July 18th.
Now the city has issued a tender for a contractor to remove the sunken boats. And while it says its reaching out to boat owners to offer help finding housing, city lawyers are preparing to seek an injunction to remove the boats and floating wharves this fall.
Former councillor and Vic West resident Shellie Gudgeon, who has been a vocal critic of the city’s response to date, says it’s high time the city followed through, enforcing its bylaw and evicting the boats.
“I’m a little bit frustrated, we’ve had this dialogue for over 5 years,” she said. “This cost of having the police and fire come out it’s too much for the taxpayer to bear not to mention the environmental degradation.”
In this case, firefighters say the boat doesn’t appear in danger of sinking, and there was no sign of a fuel spill.
But Gudgeon says she’s now hopeful the city’s injunction application comes soon, and this is the last time emergency crews are called here to deal with a derelict in distress.