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Residents escape fire at house under renovation in Victoria's Rockland neighbourhood

Residents were living in a basement suite; fire appeared to originate in roof area.
web1_rockland-fire-feb9-2024
A house in Rockland was heavily damaged by fire on Friday night. VICTORIA FIREFIGHTERS IAFF LOCAL 730. Feb. 9, 2024

The occupants of a house on a quiet street in Rockland safely escaped, but the house they just took possession of sustained heavy damage, including a collapsed roof, following an intense fire on Friday night.

Nancy Norris was alerted to the fire by her next door neighbour at around 6:40 p.m. She saw flames shooting out of the house, on Warren Gardens.

She quickly got ready to evacuate her house, along with her daughter, Margo, 6.

But before she could leave, five fire engines, including an aerial truck, arrived at her door, blocking her car in the driveway. The Victoria Fire Department’s Battalion 1, Engine 1, Ladder 1, Engine 2, Squad 2 and Engine 3 responded to battle the fire.

“A firefighter came by and assured us that it was safe to stay, but to remain indoors,” said Norris.

Margo sat with her mother through the ordeal, noting “smoke, with an angry red colour” as she looked out the window.

William Hawkins, who lives across the street, said he knew the previous owners of the house, who had lived there for more than 20 years. They had recently sold it to move to Australia, to be closer to their daughter. The new owners took possession about two weeks ago.

They could be heard renovating the main floor of the house.

“I could hear a whole bunch of banging and hammering yesterday afternoon — before the fire,” said Hawkins. “I believe they were living in the basement while doing the renovations upstairs.”

He said that it was impressive watching the firefighters at work.

“I was talking to one of the firemen, and he said that it was probably a writeoff,” he said.

John Lehman, who also lives nearby, was surprised to hear that the new owners were in the house when it happened.

“I sure hope they had insurance,” he said, surveying the broken windows, smoke-blackened walls and caved-in roof.

An investigation has been initiated to determine the cause of the fire. A fire watch crew was assigned to keep watch on the structure overnight in case of a flare-up.

“Thankfully, no one was hurt and all occupants made it out safely,” the Victoria Firefighters IAFF Local 730 said in a social media post. “Our hearts go out to the homeowner and those affected.”

Firefighters said the residents were in a basement suite and the fire appeared to originate in the roof area.

parrais@timescolonist.com