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Investigators still unable to determine cause of fatal Johnson Street fire

Investigators have been unable to determine the cause of a fire that claimed three lives on Feb. 16. Barring any new information, the investigation into the fire at 1320 Johnson St.
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Three people died in a February 2013 house fire on Johnson Street. A coroner's report says one of the victims was stabbed in the back.

Investigators have been unable to determine the cause of a fire that claimed three lives on Feb. 16.

Barring any new information, the investigation into the fire at 1320 Johnson St. is now complete, Inspector Megan Sabell of the Victoria Fire Department said Wednesday.

The investigation confirmed that the blaze that killed Emily Morin, 20, Mark Mitchell, 26, and Georgia Klap, 22, began on the front porch of the house.

But the damage was too extensive to pinpoint the cause of what is believed to be the most deadly fire in Victoria in at least 15 years, she said.

A couch fire on the porch earlier that evening may have been a contributing factor, but lack of evidence prevented investigators from conclusively making that determination, said a statement from the fire department.

Three loveseats and two wooden chairs on the porch added fuel to the fire, while winds contributed to its intensity and quick spread.

The blaze was able to travel quickly within the two-storey house’s walls due to the “balloon frame” construction style, which has wall studs extending from the basement to the roof and no fire-stopping between floors.

Three fire extinguishers were found in the house, built in the early 1900s.

While witnesses indicated there were smoke alarms, no one inside recalled hearing one go off that morning.

There were 10 residents in the rental house, and two people in a basement suite.

A similar blaze took place Aug. 6, 2007, after smouldering charcoal from a hookah pipe set a couch on fire in the living room of a two-storey, four-bedroom rental duplex at 860 Villance St.

University of Victoria students Chelsea Elizabeth Robinson, 22, and Brenna Jaclyn Innes, 21, died in the fire. Several others escaped, including two people who jumped from second-floor windows.