Victoria city councillors pushing for change following fatal van fire at Beacon Hill Park

WatchThe death of a man in a camper van at Beacon Hill park has two city councillors. Ben Nesbit reports.
The death of a man in a camper van at Beacon Hill park has two city councillors

Two Victoria city councillors are hoping to resolve a long-standing issue they say boiled over last week when a camper van went up in flames at Beacon Hill Park.

Last Thursday, 60-year-old Mike Lockhart died after his van became fully engulfed in flames in the Circle Drive parking lot. Major crimes investigators are now looking into the circumstances surrounding his death.

Current bylaws prohibit people from parking a vehicle in a street for the purpose of sleeping overnight. At Thursday’s council meeting, Coun. Stephen Andrew and his fellow councillor, Charlayne Thorton-Joe, will present a motion to have staff to report back on the implications of vehicles violating the bylaw and provide council with suggestions to manage the issue.

“We got lots of calls, emails and people discussing this on social media and so we wanted to ensure that there was a handle on this,” Andrew said Wednesday. “This has been an ongoing problem even before the pandemic and we want to get an idea of how severe this issue is and what we can do to mitigate it and also make sure we increase the safety of those who are forced to sleep in their vehicles.” said Andrew.

But Donna White, who has been living at Beacon Hill Park in her van since October, says the COVID-19 pandemic has left people in her shoes no choice but to break the bylaw.

White often travels through the United States and into Mexico, but the pandemic has kept her stuck on Vancouver Island. She says most people living in their vehicles are older, living on small pensions.

“The majority of us are all on a pension, so when they want seven, eight-hundred dollars a month, that’s a little hard to handle cause all I’m getting is $1100 a month” said White.

In regards to the fire, she described Lockhart as the type of guy who everyone liked. She doesn’t believe the fire was accident.

“We have a hard time believing that he did it,” she said.

The Victoria Police Major Crimes Unit is handling the investigation, but no updates were provided on Wednesday.

Ben NesbitBen Nesbit

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