A fire that ripped through a historic shopping plaza in Parksville Wednesday night not only destroyed several businesses, it left local business owners searching for answers as they pick up the pieces.
Parksville Fire crews were called into action at the Heritage Centre mall on Island Highway East at 9:36 p.m., remaining at the mall throughout the night as they battled the blaze.
Flames could be seen shooting through the roof of the building as a large tower of thick smoke poured into the sky, posts on social media show.
“The mall is an old one, likely a 1960s or earlier building. The attic spaces were all interconnected, unfortunately, so the fire had nothing to stop its travel from end to end of the building,” said Parksville Fire Chief Marc Norris.
One of the businesses that was destroyed was the British Bobby Restaurant, an iconic eatery in Parksville filled with historic memorabilia.
“That was my second home. My kids grew up there,” said British Bobby owner Michael St. John, observing the restaurant wreckage left behind.
Michael owned the restaurant with with his son John St. John.
“We’ve owned the Bobby for nine years and literally doubled it in size. We became the destination restaurant for all over the Island,” said John.
All that remained in the rubble was their front-of-house eagle, which firefighters pulled out from the ashes for them on Thursday.
Caution tape keeping people back was lined with worried onlookers who were afraid for business owners, including the vet clinic that had only recently opened.
“And we need vets, there’s a shortage of vets around here,” said Parksville resident Cheryl Beaveridge.
The local MP was also on scene Thursday.
“I mean this is terrible. I’m so grateful to the fire department and I’m glad that nobody has gotten hurt,” said Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni.
The community’s local newspaper the PQB News, also lost its offices, but fortunately had recently moved its historical newspapers to the museum.
“We’ll have a paper next week. I just feel a hundred times worse for the other businesses,” said PQB News Editor, Philip Wolf.
The fire was so extensive, that Parksville’s fire chief said it need to be torn down. So The British Bobby is already considering rebuilding.
“If I could rebuild I would probably continue,” said Michael.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.