The charred aftermath of a fire that ripped through a downtown hotel suite and sent several people to hospital is still visible in the morning light.
Crews now believe arson to be the cause of the blaze, which has displaced 87 people.
According to Victoria police, the incident involved a mental health barricade that started around 8:30 p.m. when a man in crisis phoned police from a suite in the Capital CityCenter Hotel and reported that he was armed.
When police arrived, they spoke to him from outside the suite and the man told them he was armed and had barricaded the suite door. As officers continued to communicate with him through the door, they heard the smoke detector sound from inside. Police then saw smoke and tried to get inside and rescue the man, but were unable to enter because of the barricaded door.
Fire tonight in Downtown Victoria at Douglas & Discovery. pic.twitter.com/uVxAMMjdjE
— 🅣🅗🅔 🅢🅣🅐🅑🅛🅔 (@thestablevic) November 6, 2020
At that point, police could see fire inside the suite, and tried again to get inside. This time the door opened, but heavy smoke pushed the officers back.
Tenants were evacuated and the the Victoria Fire Department arrived and began attacking the fire that was burning primarily at the back of the hotel, facing Caledonia Avenue. As people evacuated, police located the man who had been inside the suite and apprehended him under the Mental Health Act.
Six people were injured, five of which were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, including the man from the suite. Several police officers were treated for smoke inhalation.
Fire crews reported that the fire was significant but mostly contained to one suite, although there is substantial smoke damage to the third and fourth floors. Damages are estimated at $250,000.
The fire department reported Friday morning that the probable cause of the fire was arson.
The four-storey building at 1961 Douglas St. is a hotel with an onsite restaurant, lounge and conference rooms. BC Housing has leased 84 of the hotel’s rooms for temporary supportive housing. As a result of the fire, 87 people have been temporarily displaced. BC Housing, Red Cross, Emergency Support Services and Our Place Society are working together to find alternate shelter until residents can safely return.
BC Housing says several rooms in the hotel are rented to non-BC Housing guests and while the fire is still under investigation, the room where the fire originated is not one that is leased by BC Housing.