Victoria fire chief says it’s too early to say if Plaza Hotel fire is arson

Victoria fire chief says it's too early to say if Plaza Hotel fire is arson

WATCH: Fire crews have been fighting the Victoria Plaza Hotel fire tirelessly since early Monday morning still working to extinguish hot spots that could threaten other heritage buildings nearby. As Luisa Alvarez tells us, even more concerning is one man connected to the property remains unaccounted for.

The skies are still filled with smoke as the biggest fire Victoria has seen in a decade continues to burn.

Crews continue around the clock relentlessly soaking the flames from a distance but extinguishing it has been a struggle since it is not safe for firefighters to access all areas of the building.

“One of the doors had blown open from the basement and there was heavy fire load in the basement, which immediately tells us lets get our members out of there we’ve got fire underneath them,” said Victoria Fire Chief Paul Bruce.

On Tuesday, excavators were brought it to help dig out the hot spots and douse them.

“Bottom line is we are focusing on getting the fire out as our priority right now,” said Bruce.

Firefighters are also still trying to preserve the scene.

“That whole block is designated heritage block we don’t want to do any actions that would cause more damage,” said Bruce.

The fire began early Monday morning.  Crews were alerted only after the alarm went off from a neighbouring building so by the time crews arrived, the fire in the basement was significant and accelerating quickly.

“That is certainly a concern for me and I’m sure as well for our prevention and investigation division,” said Bruce.

Another concern is the sprinkler and alarm system that had been inspected and found in working order just two months prior didn’t go off. It will be a focus of the investigation.

But Bruce says it’s still too early to say anything.

“There was no alarm that went from the building. It could mean that it wasn’t monitored, it could mean that nobody heard it. I’d be reluctant to say what we are investigating because we haven’t had the opportunity to actually explore the property,” he said.

The building’s caretaker, Mike Draeger, who periodically stayed there also remains unaccounted for.

Anyone who knows how to contact him is asked to call VicPD at 250-995-7654.

“Our minds would be very much at ease if we could determine if he was somewhere else other than the building,”  said Bruce.

But until the fire is completely out, a thorough search will have to wait.

Bruce says Government Street between Johnson Street and Pandora Avenue will remain closed. Even after the fire is completely out, Bruce says the street will remain closed until a full assessment of the damage is complete.

The City of Victoria said city hall will be closed Wednesday for smoke remediation. Council and Committee of the Whole will be moved to the Capital Regional District 6th floor boardroom at 625 Fisgard Street for May 9.




Luisa AlvarezLuisa Alvarez

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