A fire that started in a fireplace and chimney has caused extensive damage to Spinnakers Brewpub, a landmark spot on Victoria Harbour.
No one was hurt in the Wednesday afternoon fire at 308 Catherine St. Damage is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Spinnakers complex, with a staff of 96, has been forced to close. It has restaurant and pub areas, rooms for staying the night, a brewry and a store.
Flames shots through the chimney and heavy smoke billowed from the roof about 1:30 p.m., attracting a large crowd. Firefighters worked from the roof and the second-floor patio while an aerial truck sprayed water from above. Catherine Street and a portion of the Westsong Walkway were closed.
Steve Menzies was enjoying halibut and chips and a cold beer in the upstairs pub when the room started to get smoky. “I was sitting there having lunch,” one of about 20 patrons in the room, he said “The fire was on in the fireplace and the smoke all of a sudden started coming out of the soffits.”
General manager Claire Radosevic said the incident began with a chimney fire, which was confirmed when a maintenance worker went up to the roof to check.
The building was quickly evacuated.
She said she is optimistic about the future of Spinnakers. “I have faith that everything will be OK. We’ll be fine.”
The staff Christmas party set for Monday at the Canoe Club is coming at a good time, Radosevic said.
“I think we’ll need it,” she said with a smile.
Victoria Fire Battalion Chief Bob Jones said the fire started in the second-floor fireplace and chimney and spread rapidly throughout the restaurant and brewery. “We had a hell of a time getting it out.”
About 22 firefighters responded.
“It was burning right through the roof and chimney,” Jones said. “The guys worked like dogs just to get it under control.”
Firefighters had to pull out walls, ceilings and insulation to extinguish the flames, Jones said. “It took us 21⁄2 hours to get it under control, finally, thank God.”
Jones said the building has been through several renovations, which made the fire harder to isolate.
Radosevic noted that Spinnakers has deep roots in the region — it sits on the site of a guesthouse built in 1884, while the pub opened in 1984. “I would definitely say it has some historic value in Victoria.”
Chef Ali Ryan, who has worked at Spinnakers for 12 years, fought to keep her emotions in check as she watched the blaze. “I’m very attached,” she said.
Ryan said staff members are a close-knit group. “It’s a family.”
Line cook Philip Copestake said he is eager to get back to his job.
“I hope the damage isn’t too extensive because I want to continue working,” he said. “We’ll come back from it, we’ll fix it up.”
Dan Ferguson of Duncan’s Dragonfly Farm said he supplies greens to Spinnakers and happened to drop by to pick up a cheque just as the fire began.
He said Spinnakers is a very important client for him. “I don’t know if I’d be in business without them.”
Losing Spinnakers for a period of time would be tough, Ferguson said. “They help a lot of people in our community.”
He said he is concerned for the employees. “It’s pretty sad and [a] distress right before Christmas.”
Spinnakers owner Paul Hadfield is in Hawaii on vacation and could not be reached.
Wednesday’s fire comes on the heels of two other major blazes in Greater Victoria — a Scott Street fire on Tuesday night that killed a man and a fire at Evergreen Terrace on Friday that displaced dozens of residents.