WATCH: The fire at the Traveller’s Inn low-cost housing complex was reported at midnight but once the fire department cleared the tenants to return to their units, smoke once again filled the hallways
Smoke still billowed from the Traveller’s Inn housing complex on Queens Avenue in Victoria, hours after the initial fire broke out.
“So I looked out the window and I saw flames coming up and I just evacuated the building as fast as I could,” said one tenant who didn’t want to give his full name.
That was around midnight, when flames and smoke forced the roughly 50 residents of the low-cost apartment building out on the street — some were dressed in housecoats and others had no shoes.
“There was a vehicle and a bunch of debris, some mattresses that were on fire, they did quite a flame pattern on the back,” said Victoria Fire Acting Battalion Chief Wayne Moody.
The flames torched several units, but after a couple of hours, the majority of residents were allowed to return home.
But then, at around 7:00 a.m., heavy smoke once again filled the hallways.
“I started smelling smoke again,” said tenant Matthew Stark.
“I just grabbed my cats and myself and started yelling down the hallway. I couldn’t even see down the stairwell, it was just touch and feel, everything was pitch black.”
Two people were treated for smoke inhalation and some were questioning why fire officials would have let them back in.
“They shouldn’t have let us back in the building last night if this was going to flare up again,” said tenant Eugene.
Victoria Fire said after the first call they thought they had the fire out — there were no signs of smoke, and their thermal imaging camera didn’t show any lingering hot spots.
“It’s one of those ones you think you got it all, for us to check we would have had to do hundreds of thousands dollars of damage, checking for possibly nothing,” said Moody.
But once they were called back, they did have to tear the building up, trying to find the smouldering.
“We are opening up from the ground level the roof top all around the chimney chase so it’s fairly significant,” said Moody.
The residents were taken to the Mustard Seed for lunch while they waited to hear who could return to their units and who would be left in the care of emergency social services.
Investigators are still trying to determine what started the fire.
The building is owned by Robin Kimpton, who fire officials said wasn’t at the scene Monday morning, and didn’t return our calls for comment.