Flames broke out in a former shuttle bus outside the former Cona Hostel in Courtenay Thursday night.
Vanessa Graves noticed smoke on Anderton Avenue just after 10 pm and soon discovered flames next to the hostel building close to the fifth street bridge.
She was recording a video of the fire on her phone when she noticed a man standing close to the burning bus.
“Do you want some help?” she can be heard saying in the video. “Come on dude, just get away, bring your cart, come on.”
It was unclear if the fire was spreading to the building and Vanessa could be heard in the video with her dad getting even more concerned as the man who appeared to be homeless, seemed not to want to part with what might have been his only possessions.
“You can pick that up later dude in case it blows up, come on,” said her father.
“We were standing right about here and it was so close and I could feel the heat when I was walking over and it was so hot,” Graves told CHEK News at the scene Friday. “I just jumped into action to help him, it was the right thing to do because he seemed to be standing so close.”
The man disappeared into the night with a cart full of cans and bottles.
It is unclear if the bus had been used for shelter by a growing homeless population in the area.
“It’s hard to say if anybody was squatting in there or what,” said Mr. Graves. “The bus was abandoned pretty much because the hostel next door burned a few years ago and they left their bus here.”
The Courtenay Fire Department said the fire is suspicious and there were concerns about it spreading to the nearby building.
Deputy Fire Chief George Seigler said he was told three people were seen in the area before the fire broke out and the RCMP is investigating.
The Cona Hostel was hit by arson in March 2019 and never re-opened. A 21-year-old pleaded guilty to setting the fire. An estimated 22 hostel occupants had vacated the building unharmed.
The derelict building on the city’s riverfront was built in 1894.
Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells said Friday he has attempted to contact the building’s owner to see what his plans are for it.