A fire that broke out shortly after 12 p.m. Sunday caused an explosion that left one man’s home torched at the tent city in Saanich’s Regina Park.
Residents of Camp Namegans – home to roughly 100 people since April 19 – were able to quickly extinguish the blaze before it spread to any nearby structures, said camp manager Chrissy Brett.
Charles Leslie Walkus, who will celebrate his birthday tomorrow, said he had just walked away from the tent he’s been living in for roughly two months, and was chatting with Brett when he turned to see smoke in the direction he’d come from and yelled “Fire!”
“We rushed around and grabbed fire extinguishers and water to try and put it out as soon as possible,” he said. “That probably took at least five or more minutes to get it out, but we did it all before the fire department got here.”
This is Charles, the resident of #CampNamegans who lost his tent in a fire early this afternoon at the Regina Park tent city in #Saanich #YYJ The cause of the blaze is still unknown. pic.twitter.com/0Oq5j9dvaJ
— Kristyn Anthony (@kristyn_anthony) September 2, 2018
The camp has fire extinguishers thanks to donations from a homeless outreach group, friends, and a local fire protection company as well as one resident who has their own.
“It took four fire extinguishers, and a water pump fire extinguisher and a few bottles of water to be able to put it out before the fire department was able to respond,” she said.
The fire torched Walkus’ tent in which he had some clothing and other belongings including a jerrycan and butane torch he believes led to an explosion, the result of a poorly discarded cigarette he thinks may have caused the blaze.
“[Charles] immediately evacuated the tents closest to him when we ran down there,” said Brett. Minor damage was done to a neighbouring tent’s tarp but no one was injured.
Brett said the camp has reached out to Saanich Fire Department asking to reload their fire extinguishers but was told that’s something that Saanich Fire Department “does not do.”
“I think it shows the 115 people that Saanich Fire Department characterized as unconscious and incapable of being taught any fire suppression kind of training that people have just common sense and life knowledge to be able to address a fire like this,” Brett said.
Brock Henson, assistant deputy chief of the Saanich Fire Department, said crews responded to a report of a structure fire at Regina Park at 12:05 p.m.
“When they arrived they found a smoldering tent that had completely burnt and they continued to extinguish that,” Henson said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.