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Fire at Saanich house deemed suspicious; one person injured

A Gorge area house where a fire occurred early Sunday morning was the scene of a raid by Saanich police and the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team on July 24 that resulted in the arrest of five adults on various drug-related offences.
Saanich house fire, Austin Avenue, Sept. 21, 2014
A fire caused extensive damage to a house on Austin Avenue in Saanich on Sunday. Sept. 21, 2014

A Gorge area house where a fire occurred early Sunday morning was the scene of a raid by Saanich police and the Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team on July 24 that resulted in the arrest of five adults on various drug-related offences.

Police and fire investigators are treating the blaze as suspicious, and yellow police tape surrounds the scene on the 2900 block of Austin Avenue.

Neighbours said that truckloads of junk had been removed from stucco house in recent weeks. The long-time home owner is an elderly man whose son lived with him, but various people came and went as rooms were rented out, said neighbours who asked not to be named.

A smell of smoke hung over the area Sunday evening and investigators are expected to remain on the scene through Monday.

One occupant was taken to hospital by B.C. Ambulance Service but was not seriously injured, Staff Sgt. Andy Walsh said. Neighbours said the person taken to hospital was the elderly homeowner.

Damage to the house is estimated at $400,000, said battalion chief Robert Heppell of the Saanich fire department.

Firefighters responded just before 1 a.m. to flames and heavy smoke with two engine trucks and two ladder truck. They spent about 30 minutes containing the fire and then spent several hours on the scene making sure the fire was out.

The house, which was the source of a considerable number of community complaints over the years, is no longer habitable.

Saanich police could not confirm the status of the drug charges faced by the four men and one woman following the July raid.

This is a corrected version of an earlier story.