Abby Jose was woken partially awake on Friday morning by a puzzling sound – something he thought could be attributed to wind or even snow outside his Doncaster Drive rental house.
At the same time, Nick Lacoursiere was driving to work to repair a chimney on Megaw Place – the street behind Doncaster – when he spotted smoke and drove straight to the scene.
He called a colleague from CBS Masonry, Scott Clarke, already at Megaw Place, to warn him. “I just jumped in my truck and burned over there,” said Clarke, who grabbed a neighbor’s hose to try to fight the fire.
It was about 8 a.m. when Lacoursiere and another man who had passed by found the front door of the burning house unlocked and went inside to sound fire alarms.
Jose, 25, heard them yelling and met them in the hallway, getting to safety without injury.
“We just went to every door to try to open every door. One door was locked and we knocked on it,” Lacoursiere said.
It turned out that Jose was the only one of the rental unit’s five tenants in the house at the time. His bedroom is on the second floor of the building with a balcony in front. The fire was burning on the outside of the house on the balcony.
Clarke said: “As soon as the vinyl siding started to burn, the flames got pretty intense at the front of the house.”
The Saanich Fire Department was quickly on the scene to extinguish the fire, which had moved into the attic. Saanich emergency services arrived to line up housing for tenants for a few days if needed, as well as food and other supplies.
Tenant Adrienne Sellors of Winnipeg said none of the tenants had renters insurance for their belongings. The Ottawa-based owner of the house has been notified, she said.
Only one tenant has family in the area.
Sellers is staying with friends in Sooke. She was at work when she heard about the fire and booked off for the day to return home to find belongings in her second-floor room damaged by water.
Jose’s room doesn’t have a roof now, Sellors said. Jose said his belongings have smoke and water damage.
Tenant Daniel Froese, 22, has lots of family in the area. What happened “hasn’t really set in yet,” he said.
He received a text about the fire, and when he walked home, he saw smoke in the distance and could smell it as he reached McCrae Avenue.
“I just ran from there to here. When I got here it looked so much worse – so much more smoke.”
Saanich Assistant Deputy Chief Michael Kaye said an investigator is looking into the fire. The cause is not known at this time, but it does not appear suspicious.
The fire appeared to have started on the balcony, moved up the siding and into the soffits on the roof, he said.
The house’s smoke alarms went off when the fire moved into the interior of the building, he said.
As for the men who went into the house to warn people, Kaye said it’s not recommended to go into a fire without protective clothing, but by this time the fire was completely outside, so they managed to stay safe.
>>> To comment on this article, write a letter to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org