‘Intense’ fire damages bakery, draws multi-department response in Esquimalt: ‘It’s emotional’

'Intense' fire damages bakery, draws multi-department response in Esquimalt: 'It's emotional'

Esquimalt crews are investigating and a business owner is reeling after a fire badly damaged a local bakery Wednesday morning, leaving many people out of a job.

“It’s a loss of employment for so many people. It’s been kind of like a primary income for so many, so I don’t know what to say at this point,” said Jagdeep Bunet, one of the owners of Rising Star Wholesale Bakery, which is now shuttered.

“It’s emotional. All of our clients, our customers who are relying on us.”

Around 8 a.m., Esquimalt Fire Rescue was called to the bakery in the 900-block of Devonshire Road for a structure fire. Fire chief Matt Furlot says they received “several calls” about the blaze, which was “quite visible” when they arrived.

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“It was already venting flames and smoke that was visible, and they did an initial attack. It was an interior attack,” he recalls. “It was a very difficult area for us to control the fire, and eventually, we had to retreat and call mutual aid partners.”

Crews from the Victoria, View Royal and CFB fire departments were also called to the scene, where a CHEK News reporter counted about 10 fire personnel.

VicPD officers and paramedics were also there.

Fire was ‘too dangerous’: chief 

Furlot says this fire was “challenging” to put out because it started on the second floor of the building.

“That’s partially what made it very challenging. By the time we arrived, the fire was very hard to access and contain. Eventually, we had to retreat, and this became a defensive fire,” he said in an interview with CHEK News on scene.

“A defensive means all firefighters attack the fire from outside, so it’s a command decision. We will not risk firefighters at that point for what’s happening inside. It’s too dangerous, so we retreat out and we attack the fire from outside.”

Victoria police asked commuters to avoid a stretch of Lampson Street between Old Esquimalt Road and Rockheights Avenue due to the fire. The bakery is located just off Lampson, and police were asking people to use an alternate route.

“There has been quite a disruption to traffic,” said Furlot.

Witnesses recall seeing large plumes of smoke.

“I was working on the computer this morning and one of my colleagues came rushing through the door. He said, ‘Okay, we need to clear the building.’ We peeked out the door and thick clouds of smoke rising from the business over here,” said Stewart Clark, who works at a neighbouring business.

“It was pretty intense.”

He’s worked in the area for several years and hopes the bakery will eventually reopen. “Always a nice bakery smell was coming from there,” he said. “Not so much now.”

Heath Robertson says his walk to school quickly turned from ordinary to anything but when he smelled smoke and saw flames “shooting out of the building.”

“It was quite a sight to see. I feel for the businesses, for the building owners. It’s a tragic situation to see a fire this big with so many different departments having to respond,” said Robertson, a student at Esquimalt High School.

Investigation underway

No one was injured in the fire, according to Bunet.

“There are around eight people in production and eight or nine people in packaging, so that’s a lot of employment. We want to make sure we get everyone back. They were all out, so it’s good we had no loss of life,” he said.

Around 9:30 a.m., crews were in the final stages of getting things under control.

“We’re able to control the fire now and contain it to one side of the building. And at this stage, about an hour-and-a-half later, we’re doing the final stages of controlling this fire,” said Furlot, adding that the cause is currently unknown.

“We know the room the fire started in at this point, but not the cause. We understand something like this is very concerning. We have a lot of neighbours out on the street wondering what’s going on. Our hearts definitely go out to the business owners that were affected by this fire today,” he said.

“From what I’m getting, it was a short circuit or something,” noted Bunet. “We’ll wait for the fire department and what they have to say about it.”

The damage estimate is unknown at this time.

“There will be an investigation, and the insurance company will be involved and they’ll likely conduct an investigation as well,” added Furlot.

READ ALSO: Firefighters battle house fire that was ‘hot enough to break windows’ in Victoria

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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