As charred beams continued to smoulder on Wednesday afternoon, city engineers and demolition specialists tore away at the walls of the remnants of the Plaza Hotel.
The first two storeys of the northern and eastern walls are set to come down to ensure safety for the public and the ensuing fire inspection team.
The heritage building at 603 Pandora Ave. caught fire early Monday morning with a rapidity that is raising red flags.
— Nicole Crescenzi (@NicoleCrescenzi) May 8, 2019
While Victoria Fire Chief Paul Bruce wouldn’t confirm that arson was suspected, he said that once crews are in they will be searching for signs of a fire accelerant.
“Certainly from my perspective the fire spread, and to be that quick… that fire was either burning undetected for a long time, or there was rapid fire spread,” Bruce said.
Most of the smoke continued to arise on Wednesday from a stack of mattresses in the south-east corner of the building.
Fire crews were having trouble accessing the area, due to rubble and safety concerns about surrounding walls.
City of Victoria director of engineering Fraser Works said that teams are now working to gain access to those hot spots in order for firefighters to get more water on the remaining flames.
“We have to work to move with precarious loads that are up high that have the risks of falling on the operators of the machinery, or potentially into the streets, or potentially pulling down the existing buildings to the south,” Work said. “So, there’s no confidence right now in any of the structural elements of that facility.”
Bruce also said that they need to be mindful that the missing caretaker, Mike Daeger, could be within the rubble.
“We’re conscious of the possibility that somebody could have been in the building,” Bruce said. “We’re gingerly taking our time and are conscious of that.”
Fire crews have been taking steps to rule out whether a person was in the building or not, using drones and ladders to look into every window, and while no one has been found so far there are no final conclusions on Draeger’s whereabouts.
“We’ve done everything humanly possible to try to determine if we could locate anybody or if there was any kind of presence in that building,” Bruce said.
Bruce hopes the fire will be out by the end of Wednesday.
The surrounding area, including the Government Street block between Johnson Street and Pandora Avenue will remain closed off until there’s more confidence in the building’s structure.