Heavy smoke took over an hour to extinguish after a fire ripped through an Esquimalt apartment building Sunday afternoon. (Keri Coles/News staff)

Esquimalt apartment fire caused by human error

The fatal fire started in the victim’s unit

The exact cause of Sunday’s fatal fire on Craigflower Road is still under investigation, but the Esquimalt Fire Department has determined it was not set intentionally.

“It does appear to be accidental, some kind of human activity that caused the fire,” said Fire Chief Chris Jancowski, who noted that final details will be coming out in a report. “It started in a fourth floor unit in the north-east corner.”

This was the same unit where the only victim, Judith Rose Burke, lived. Burke was seen trapped on her balcony as neighbours tried to coax her down by holding blankets, but the attempt was unsuccessful.

ALSO READ: One woman confirmed dead following Esquimalt fire

“In this case, the fire developed quite well inside the unit before flames were seen outside,” Jancowski said. “The amount of build up really prevented people from leaving from the fourth floor, forcing them onto the balcony.”

The Esquimalt Fire Department, CFB Esquimalt Fire Department, the Victoria Fire Department and the View Royal Fire Rescue attended the scene, using ladder rescue techniques to assist the rest of the people trapped on the balconies.

Some people received minor cuts on their wrists and legs from the ladders, and one firefighter from the Esquimalt Fire Department sustained a shoulder injury.

Most of the building was not burned.

“Most of the fire damage was confined to that unit and hallway, with water damage affecting the first, second and third floor,” Jancowski said.

ALSO READ: Fund launched for victims of fatal Esquimalt apartment fire

Jancowski said that a major problem with the building was that it had no fire sprinklers installed.

“Buildings of that vintage, from the 1960s and ‘70s, didn’t have sprinklers because it wasn’t part of the building code,” Jancowski explained. “Luckily, it did have a fire alarm system that worked very well.”

Currently, Belmont Properties is assessing the extent of the damage. Tenants are not able to return to their units at this time.

After the fire was controlled, firefighters entered the building to retrieve vital medications. Firefighters also searched units for pets and found several fish and cats who were unharmed and okay to stay in the units at the time. Firefighters fed the pets and took note of their locations.

Building residents will likely be able to re-enter the building on Friday or Saturday to retrieve possessions. It’s unknown if or when they will be able to return to live in their units.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Just Posted

High of 14 C for Wednesday

Plus your weekend forecast

Province announces more improvements for Highway 14

$85-million project made possible through federal funding support

Wild Wise Sooke founder leaves post

Lush Cosmetics offers much-needed funding for the group

UVic partners with harm reduction groups to run a drug checking pilot project

The three-year pilot will allow people to test their drugs for fatal ingredients like fentanyl

Tryouts underway for Oak Bay High golf team

Cool April weather brings a chilly start for school team

WATCH: Police call Happy Valley shooting an ‘isolated and targeted’ incident

One person in custody, another fled following crash on Kelly Road

Should B.C. parents receive money if they make sure their kids are vaccinated?

New survey looks at public opinion around government’s role in forcing immunizations

‘Cutthroat’ sport of wine tasting happening in B.C.

BC Tasting Games are underway with competitions in three Okanagan communities.

Early data suggests no post-legalization spike in drug-impaired driving charges

Many police departments are prioritizing investigations related to drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine

Woe, Canada: Bruins down Maple Leafs 5-1 in Game 7

No Canadian teams left in Stanley Cup playoffs

Music Monday to unite students across Sooke in song

Over 200 students will carol around town on May 6

B.C. men challenge constitutionality of Canada’s secret no-fly list

Parvkar Singh Dulai says he received a “denial of boarding” notification under the no-fly program last May 17

Murder on B.C. property didn’t need to be disclosed before sale, court rules

Buyer had tried to break contract after learning a man with ties to crime had been murdered there

Most Read