Gold River residents woke up to plumes of smoke and massive flames ravaging mobile homes in the Matchlee Drive area Saturday morning.
Local firefighters arrived on scene around 2:30 a.m. and quickly called in reinforcements from the Campbell River Fire Department, according to Gold River Mayor Brad Unger.
“They arrived as soon as they could,” Unger told CHEK News. “They were there to take on and support our local fire department here.”
Unger toured the site once the blaze was out and says two mobile homes were destroyed, with several other homes suffering heat and smoke damage.
“So, six in total from an area where there are probably about 10 mobile homes in that little cul-de-sac,” he said. “Fortunately, our crew was on it soon and fought back and kept the other ones from burning down completely.”
While residents safely escaped the fire, according to Unger, one dog was found deceased.
He says firefighters were busy all morning extinguishing the fire and all hot spots, and also notes that locals lent a helping hand.
“I managed to stretch the garden hose into the backyard,” said Paul Laviolette, a nearby resident who helped mitigate the flames.
“I was in the backyard there, and I got the fire out on this house and that house,” he said in a video interview at the scene. “If I wasn’t there with that garden hose, they would have both been gone, for sure.”
Recalling the incident, Laviolette says propane tanks near one mobile home “we’re going off like fireworks,” summing it up as “quite the thing.”
He says he’s grateful fire crews arrived on scene quickly because things could have taken a turn for the worse, especially amid a hot and dry stretch of weather.
“If [the fire] took off across into the bush, it would’ve been really bad,” he said.
Yet video footage sent to CHEK News shows flames spreading to nearby trees.
Shirley Waite, Laviolette’s daughter, was also on scene and recalled running up and down the street, banging on windows and doors while screaming for residents to wake up as the fire wreaked havoc.
“It’s a small community, and people do what they have to,” said Unger, “and people jump up and support.”
He says emergency support services were called and immediately sprung into action, supporting the displaced residents and putting them up in a hotel.
But now, Unger’s pointing to an ongoing housing shortage.
“So they’re being supported that way in the interim,” he said. “Long-term, there’s a housing crisis here just like everywhere else. It could be difficult (for those) who are going to be out of their homes.”
Calling the fire “devastating,” Unger believes that all the affected homes are privately owned, though he’s unsure if all the owners had home insurance.
“These are long-term community members. It’s very difficult. It’s very difficult to see,” he added.
CHEK News has reached out to the Gold River Fire Department and will update this story when more information, including the suspected cause, is available.