An early morning fire during the Easter long weekend has left a Victoria community garden out of thousands of dollars in equipment.
Victoria Fire personnel and police were called to Oswald Park for a structure fire just before 2 a.m. April 8. There, authorities found that the Oaklands Community Garden’s shed was completely engulfed.
“The heat and flame had spread to some adjacent items such as raised garden beds [and] wheelbarrows,” said Deputy Chief Chris Royle of Victoria Fire Department.
Crews were on the scene for over an hour until it was under control. VicPD says they’re treating it as the fire was intentionally set.
“It is in the early stages of investigation but is being treated as an arson at this time,” said VicPD spokesperson Const. Terri Healy in an emailed statement to CHEK News.
The executive director for the Oaklands Community Association says benches and some composters were also damaged, estimating the damages at over $10,000.
“Everyone is really upset that this happened, they’re very surprised, very shocked. Just not really the news they wanted this long weekend,” said Sandy Robertson.
Clean-up of the garden slowly began on Monday — which is also the one year anniversary date of when the garden first opened to the public.
Long-time volunteer Katherine Muncaster quickly got to work, preparing whatever she could ahead of the spring planting season.
“It’s a pretty big disaster area right now,” said Muncaster.
It’s unclear what the setback will look like for more than two dozen of its members, some who have already some of their flowerbeds planted.
“We do need to figure out some of the areas that were close to the burn area to make sure that the soil is not contaminated,” said Muncaster.
The community is fenced off but the doors aren’t locked overnight by choice and there are currently no plans to upgrade security.
Both tell CHEK News they’re not letting this fire hold them back from expanding their garden.
This year, they’ll be adding a section to the public in which non-members are able to freely pick.
“We are going to plant a variety of fruits and flowers that people can just come by and pick as they’re visiting,” said Muncaster.
The community garden is looking for donations and help from the public to help bring the area back to full fruition. Those who are interested in helping can contact the community association at 250-370-9101 or email [email protected].