Fatal Esquimalt apartment fire caused by human error

Fatal Esquimalt apartment fire caused by human error

The aftermath of the apartment fire on Craigflower Road on April 7, 2019.

The aftermath of the apartment fire on Craigflower Road on April 7, 2019.

A fatal fire at an apartment building on Craigflower Road on Sunday was caused by human error, according to the Esquimalt Fire Department.

Esquimalt Fire Chief Chris Jancowski said after the initial investigation, the fire department has determined the blaze was human-caused and not suspicious. He added this means that the fire was sparked by human activity and not a malfunction of some type of device.

“It started where the kitchen and living room joined,” Jancowski said.

The results of the final investigation from the fire department and the BC Coroners Service are expected in two to three months. Due to the severity of the damage, Jancowski said it will take some time to ascertain exactly what started the fire, such as smoking or cooking.

According to Jancowski, there was more damage because the fire burned for some time inside the unit before the Esquimalt Fire Department responded.

“There was a fair amount of time before anyone called 911,” Jancowski said.

The fire started in a fourth-floor unit in the north-east corner of the apartment building at 843 Craigflower Road. Judith Burke, a woman in her 60s who lived in the unit, died in the fire. She was identified by friends and neighbours.

Bystanders tried to rescue the woman by holding out a blanket for her to jump onto but she didn’t jump.

Other people who were trapped in the building were rescued by ladder and some suffered minor injuries. Jancowski said a firefighter also has a shoulder injury from using a ground ladder to rescue people.

The fire damage was confined to the fourth-floor unit and the hallway but there was water damage on the first, second and third floor. The building did not have sprinklers as it was an older building.

“Back in the late 60s, early 70s, buildings weren’t required to have them,” Jancowski said.

The site has been turned back over to Belmont Properties who will determine when the approximately 100 residents can return to their units.


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