Historic house in Victoria takes ‘significant damage’ from structure fire

Historic house in Victoria takes 'significant damage' from structure fire
WatchA century-old heritage home went up in flames Tuesday night in Victoria West. Firefighters were able to control the blaze, but not before significant damage was done to the building. Jasmine Bala reports.

A house in West Victoria, that is considered a national historic site, was devastated by a fire that ignited on Tuesday evening.

The Victoria Fire Department said they received a 911 call shortly after 8:30 pm on April 28, with a report of a “fully-involved structure fire” in the 200-block of Robert Street.

According to Victoria Fire Department Deputy Chief Dan Atkinson the department responded with three engines, two aerial apparatuses, a rescue truck and a battalion chief to combat the blaze.

“We initiated an exterior attack initially and tried to transition into an interior attack, but we were met with some pretty challenging fire conditions inside the structure, a significant amount of fire load and a heavily-seeded fire” said Atkinson. “It was at that time we made the determination to withdraw and move into a defensive posture.”

Atkinson said crews continued to put out hotspots throughout the night, but the bulk of the fight lasted about four hours.

“We were actively fighting the fire from the time the fire call was received, right up until almost midnight with heavy fire conditions.”

There was one man inside the house at the time the fire sparked, said Victoria Fire. He was the one who called 911 and Atkinson said that he was able to escape from the historic home, unharmed.

The cause of the fire on Robert St. is still unknown and an investigation is ongoing, however, Atkinson said there is no reason to believe that suspicious behaviour was involved, as signs point to the blaze igniting accidentally.

As far as the aftermath goes, Atkinson said there is significant damage to the structure, particularly to the second floor.

“A significant portion of the main floor we were able to save, but it will be up to the insurance company and the engineers to determine the actual extent of the damage,” added Atkinson.

The home itself, located at 223 Robert St., was finished in 1904 and is described by the Victoria Heritage Foundation as “a fine example of the transition between Victorian and Edwardian versions of the Queen Anne style.” It was declared a national historic site in 1991.

“[It’s] a private home and it’s a national historic site,” said Ken Johnson, president of the Hallmark Heritage Society. “Canada considered this house significant. It goes far beyond local importance. It’s an important house nationally.”

Many people in the community felt the loss, including neighbour Sue Ferreira, who watched the house go up in flames from her balcony.

“There was a home that were all very, very fond of in the neighbourhood, just in roaring flames. It was just really sad to see,” she said. “Not even just in the immediate neighbourhood, like everyone around there knew this home, its little hexagonal turret. It was so iconic.”

It’s a memory of a time when homes had different architecture and symbolic of the people who lived there before.

“We have many historic homes in Victoria. We’re not building any more,” Johnson said. “Once they’re burned down, they’re gone forever.”

Below are some photos sent in by viewers during the fire on Tuesday, April 29.

Victoria Fire responding to a structure fire in the 200-block of Robert Street in Vic West.

Crews fought the fire at 223 Robert Street until approximately midnight on Tuesday. (Diana Elliott)

Another view from a higher angle of the blaze that devastated the interior of 223 Robert Street (Alan Traish)




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Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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