Suite access poses challenge for crews called to fire at Victoria supportive housing unit

Suite access poses challenge for crews called to fire at Victoria supportive housing unit
Fire crews responded to a fire on Queens Avenue in Victoria on April 17, 2023.

Smoke billowed from the windows of a supportive housing unit after it caught fire in the Queens Manor apartment building in Victoria Monday.

The fire reported before shortly before noon was contained to one of the building’s 36 units, with crews immediately on the scene to battle the blaze.

“One engine came and then reported there was a fire in one suite…and then we deployed the initial attack team and other supporting crews to help extinguish the fire,” said Victoria Fire Department battalion chief John Kirkendale.

Officials say strong winds at the time were an obstacle as they tried to keep the fire under control. Crews were then challenged gaining access to the suite and had to employ various methods to enter the residence.

READ MORE: Warning issued for potentially damaging 70 km/h winds sweeping Greater Victoria

“The occupant had a lot of miscellaneous equipment in the suite,” said Kirkendale. “Gaining access was one of the most difficult and challenging things for the first-in crews, but we utilized some different forceful entry tools to gain access and extinguish the fire.”

After gaining entry, the next task was trying to get all of the remaining residents out of the building safely.

“There were still many occupants in suites, so a lot of our other crews assisted in ensuring the other occupants were out of their suites and we also had assistance from VicPD  in order to make sure we got everybody out,” said Kirkendale.

About 10 residents living in the supportive housing complex were displaced by the fire but the Cool Aid Society was able to find other places for all of them to stay.

Tracey Robertson, spokesperson for the Cool Aid Society, says the damage was contained to the one room where the fire started, but 10 people had to move out at least overnight.

She says she believes everyone should be able to move back shortly, except the one person living in the room where the fire started.

“Once everything’s assessed to be safe and we’ll have Hydro and the other crews working together with the people who look after the building to get people back in,” says Kirkendale.

Until then residents will stay at other Cool Aid Society facilities until they can return.

While it isn’t confirmed, Robertson says it is believed a faulty wire of the person’s belongings may have sparked the fire. Victoria Fire has not confirmed a suspected cause but said no one was injured.

Cole SorensonCole Sorenson

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