Caretaker still missing after massive Victoria hotel fire, friends fear the worst


WATCH: Mystery continues over whereabouts of caretaker as materials from massive Victoria hotel fire are tested for accelerants. Tess van Straaten reports.

Crews work for a fourth straight day to extinguish the Victoria Plaza Hotel blaze, as hot spots continue to flare up.

That means it’s still not safe for investigators to enter the site to determine whether it was was an accident or deliberately set.

“It’s still too early,” says Deputy Chief Chris Royle of the Victoria Fire Department. “We’ll be doing our fire cause investigation when the scene is actually safe to enter.”

Materials pulled out of the building are being testing for accelerants.

The buildings historic Government Street facade, dating back to 1911, is now gone.  They’d hoped to save it but it was removed Wednesday evening for safety seasons.

The last remaining wall, along the alley, started coming down Thursday afternoon.

“It’s unsafe right now for excavator operators to work in there with that load that’s hanging high off that wall,” explains City of Victoria director of engineering and public works Fraser Work. “That’s unstable and structurally unsound.”

But despite the progress being made, the building’s caretaker is still unaccounted for.

Mike Dreagar’s lived in the vacant building for years — and worked here for more than two decades doing maintenance before that.

“He’s just been a staple, a fixture, like a piece of furniture in this building,” says friend and former co-worker Wayne Kalnciems. “He’s not the type of person you’d see go on vacations. His whole life was established in this building.”

Friends say they’re now starting to fear the worst.

“My inkling is, I don’t want to say it, but I think he might be in there,” says Kalnciems. “My heart hopes not but maybe it might be. It’s very upsetting.”

Police found Draegar’s airstream parked in the alley behind the building Monday. But they’ve had no luck trying to locate him.

Draegar also had his own workshop in the basement — which was an inferno when fire crews arrived — so they have no way of knowing if he was there.

“We’re still not at a point where we can make any access into the basement,” says Deputy Chief Royle.

If the fire turns out to be fatal, officials say it will determine how the investigation progresses.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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