Flames that coloured the sky as they reached into the night. Screams and flashing emergency lights. People who had just escaped the flames of a burning house huddling on the sidewalk under blankets.
These were just some of the impressions that Saanichton residents shared Sunday morning as they observed the aftermath of an early Sunday morning fire to a Central Saanich duplex at 7987 Galbraith Cres.
Cpt. Mike Simpson of Central Saanich Fire Department said the fire remains under investigation. “We know more once we interview the residents and once we complete our fire investigation.” He could not offer a damage estimate as crews spent Sunday morning mopping up hot spots. “As far as the upper section, it is a write-off and the bottom is water-damaged,” he said. “So it looks almost like a complete write-off.” Overall, Simpson described the fire as “very serious” given the damage.
“They (residents) were very fortunate to get out,” he said. A total of six people were living in the duplex, including a friend of Leanne Grover, who lives with her parents next to the house.
Pointing to a nearby sidewalk, Grover said her female friend was “catatonic” and “scared” as they were waiting together for ambulance crews to arrive with her friend wearing nothing but her pajamas but covering under a blanket which Grover had brought out.
“She wasn’t even moving or breathing, she was so terrified,” said Grover of her friend, said to be 19 or 20 years old. The other residents, whom Grover described between 18 to 25 years old, appeared in a similar state of shock and disbelief. “They were beyond terrified and panicked. It was total shock.”
Grover for her part was just starting to realize what had happened after waking up in the early morning hours with firefighters telling her and her parents to get out of the house, mere steps away from the burning structure. “It happened really fast,” she said. “It was a huge (fire). We were just standing outside for a couple of house before we could get back in our house.”
While a fence and part of the yard caught fire, Grover said she and her family consider themselves pretty lucky. “We really thought our house was going to catch fire,” she said.
Corinne Bathurst said she woke up after hearing yelling. “A police car turned up, so I thought it was a party or something,” she said. “And I looked out and then saw people running around and the fire trucks were arriving.”
Watching from her deck, Bathurst could see flames shooting up from the deck and out of the roof of the burning home.
“We stood here for about an hour, hour-and-a-half and then you could hear the roof collapsing,” she said. “It was pretty scary how fast these houses can up,” she said. “It was scary to see how these flames were and worrying about the neighbour’s house. The people over here said the whole sky was yellow.”
Simpson said crews responded to the duplex at around 3:40 a.m. “(On) our first arrival, (the fire) had already come through the roof,” he said. “All the residents had evacuated with a couple of minor injuries and then we just worked to fight the fire in the attic.”
He said approximately 30 firefighters responded, including crews from Sidney and North Saanich. Police and ambulance were also on scene with affected residents said to have received emergency social assistance through the Peninsula Emergency Measures Organization.
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