Fire crews were still dousing the Plaza Hotel with water Tuesday afternoon as demolition began. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

Victoria Fire Department brings in rigs to help stop fire

Arson not ruled out, investigation can’t begin until area is cleared

A thick haze still hung on the 600-block of Pandora Avenue Tuesday afternoon as fire crews continued to douse water on the old Plaza Hotel.

Equipment was brought in to clear rubble from the building site and crews were seen wearing masks to protect themselves from the smoke and chemicals.

READ MORE: Fire ravages empty downtown Victoria building

Pandora Avenue between Douglas Street and Government Street reopened to pedestrians and traffic on Tuesday. Passers-by could be seen covering their mouths and noses with sweaters, scarves and whatever else they had in hand, though the best step people could take as the flames continue is to avoid the area.

“That smoke is toxic so if you don’t have to breathe it in, I don’t know why you would,” said Victoria Fire Chief Paul Bruce.

So far, investigators have not been able to access the remnants of the heritage building to determine if asbestos is present or not.

Bruce said that Tuesday’s concentrated efforts are to put the fire out completely so that engineers can assess the safety of the area.

“What we’re very conscious of today is just trying to move timbers around as gently as possible so we can preserve the scene as much as we can, but still get the fire suppressed,” Bruce said. “It’s a matter of safety first; whether the building was built today or 100 years ago, we don’t want walls being compromised and falling on our members or falling anywhere.”

ALSO READ: One man missing in relation to downtown Victoria fire

Once engineers have cleared the site, the fire department’s investigation can begin.

At this point the idea of arson has not been ruled out, though there are some red flags in the situation including the speed at which flames could spread, and the uncertainty of whether a sprinkler system and fire alarm were activated.

The building had been subject to two recent fire inspections on March 21 and April 26, and was scheduled for a follow-up on May 8 to address any outstanding issues, which included burnt out exit signs.

In these inspections, Bruce was able to confirm that the sprinkler system was in place and working, and that a fire alarm had been tested. Bruce could not confirm if the alarm belonged to a third-party company or if it was simply an audible system.

ALSO READ: Downtown Victoria building failed two fire inspections before catching fire

It is unclear if the alarm system went off, but if it did it did not alert the Victoria Fire Department of the fire. Rather, the department responded to a neighbouring building’s alarm.

When asked if these facts raised the suspicions of arson, Bruce was uncertain.

“I’d be reluctant to say what we’re investigating because we’ve haven’t had an opportunity to investigate the property,” he said, “We’ll look at anything that could be determined as a factor.”

While many buildings have alarms which directly alert a fire department, others will have a third-party company alert emergency services, and others will simply make noise.

Bruce noted that this last system is particularly effective if there’s someone stationed at the building. The Plaza Hotel was supposed to have a live-in caretaker, Mike Draeger, who is still unaccounted for. The Victoria Police Department is now searching for any clues to his whereabouts.

As of yet a cause to the fire has not been determined. There are no major injuries reported, though firefighters have reported minor injuries related to smoke.

Government Street will remain closed between Johnson and Pandora until engineers have determined that the site is safe.

vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca


 

vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter
and Instagram

 

Fire crews were still dousing the Plaza Hotel with water Tuesday afternoon as demolition began. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

Fire crews were still dousing the Plaza Hotel with water Tuesday afternoon as demolition began. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

Fire crews were still dousing the Plaza Hotel with water Tuesday afternoon as demolition began. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

Fire crews were still dousing the Plaza Hotel with water Tuesday afternoon as demolition began. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

Just Posted

Victoria woman experiencing homelessness wants systematic changes as she faces losing her truck

Willi Boepple fears losing one of her last possessions after being inundated with parking tickets

WATCH: Marine security company posts live seal cam at Oak Bay Marina

Seals tend to loiter near the fish-cleaning table

UPDATED: Two-sailing wait at BC Ferries Swartz Bay terminal

Passengers destined for Tsawwassen without a reservation should allow for extra time at terminal

Bacteria counts lead Island Health to warn swimmers off Elk/Beaver Lake beach

As a precautionary measure it is not recommended for people or pets to enter the water

Tour de Victoria: The downlow on detours in the region

Thousands of cyclists participating in ninth Tour de Victoria

WATCH: Family dog missing after fire tears through Metchosin home

Firefighters continue to monitor for hot spots

Victoria Shamrocks open WLA finals at Q Centre in Colwood

Team is evenly matched in championship series against Maple Ridge Burrards

‘Easy Rider’ star Peter Fonda dies at 79

Actor and writer was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing the 1969 psychedelic road trip movie

Excavators help cute kid who copied their dig with his toys stay “safe at work”

Carson Carnegie wakes up at 7:00 am every morning to watch construction work on his street

Bob Lenarduzzi out as Vancouver Whitecaps president

MLS team is at the bottom of the Western Conference standings

B.C. daycare operator denies negligence in death of ‘Baby Mac’

Infant died in early 2017 after biting an electrical cord, according to a lawsuit filed by his mom

BC SPCA reopens animal cruelty investigation at Abbotsford pig farm

Additional alleged footage released from Excelsior Hog Farm sparks new investigation

RCMP on Vancouver Island seek information on alleged ‘breaking out’ bandit

Man alleged to have hid in Nanaimo business washroom ceiling overnight, took monitors

POLL: What is the main thing you would like to see improved on BC Ferries?

BC Ferries passengers are sounding off on what they would like to… Continue reading

Most Read