Saanich Peninsula firefighters and museum volunteers helped save priceless artifacts detailing the history of the Saanich Peninsula and beyond during a fire Wednesday.
While flames caused extensive damage to portions of a building more than a century old, the combined efforts of firefighters from Central Saanich, Sidney and volunteers with the Saanich Historical Artificats Society prevented worse, said Chris Vrabel, fire chief with the Central Saanich Fire Department.
“So we are pleased to say that none of the artifcats were damaged in this; may be slight smoke damage but no damage to the artificats or the majority of the building,” he said.
Gary Bradshaw, treasurer with the society, said the quick response made a difference in preventing the fire from spreading into the main part of the building, where the society was storing several antique vehicles.
Vrabel said Central Saanich crews received a report of a structure fire just after 11 a.m.
About a dozen firefighters responded to the scene within 12 minutes. Crews from the Sidney Volunteer Fire Department were also called to assist.
When crews arrived, flames were coming out of the building’s roof, and firefighters fought the blaze from the building’s interior and exterior.
“It appears that the source of the fire was from the chimney of a woodstove. Just over a period of time, the wood had degraded to the point … where it eventually combusted.”
“They (woodstoves) require permits from the local fire department. They require to be installed by certified technicians and inspected annually. And the insurance companies are quite diligent about making sure that these appliances are up-to-date and installed in good working conditions.
Vrabel said current estimates peg the damage at $20,000.
Bradshaw said the person who escaped the fire unharmed had been using the stove inside. “It has probably been in there for 20 to 30 years,” said Bradshaw.
The damaged building, constructed in 1912, had had several functions in the past. Before coming to Heritage Acres, it stood at the corner of Burnside Road and Tillicum Road, used by the District of Saanich. In the past, the provincial government had used it to maintain the now-closed road that connected Greater Victoria to places north before the construction of the current Malahat Highway.
Heritage Acres has been closed since last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Bradshaw anticipates that the facility will remain closed until September at the earliest.
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