Saanich Fire Department officials have not yet determined the cause of a fire that caused an estimated $400,000 damage to the home of a prominent local artist Thursday afternoon.
Paul Hutner, 64, kept his life's work of modern art in the Vista Bay Road home, and the extent of the damage to the artworks is not yet known.
When firefighters responded, thick black smoke billowing from the ground floor and upper windows was so severe that they were unable to enter the house until the fire was under control.
The response included 20 firefighters, some of whom carried paintings out of the house.
Hutner was at home when the fire was discovered. His wife, Martha Black, the curator of enthnology at the Royal B.C. Museum, was not.
The couple is now staying with friends and are holding up well despite the trauma, said friend and gallery manager Peter Redpath.
The scene has been turned over to the couple's insurance company, said fire Capt. Richard Pala.
Hutner's largest wall-sized works have sold for upward of $10,000.
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