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Victoria firefighters extinguish two major house fires

Victoria firefighters put out two extensive fires early Wednesday morning — one of which is under criminal investigation — while Colwood Fire dealt with another in the evening. The first blaze, at 930 Walker St.

Victoria firefighters put out two extensive fires early Wednesday morning — one of which is under criminal investigation — while Colwood Fire dealt with another in the evening.

The first blaze, at 930 Walker St., near Victoria West Elementary School, broke out about 2:30 a.m. Multiple 911 calls reported a structure fire at the two-storey row townhouse.

Neighbour Tyler Reidie told CHEK News that another neighbour alerted residents to the fire.

“He rushed and grabbed a fire extinguisher and told his mother, who called 911,” Reidie said. “The he burst into the house, apparently, notified the occupants, and started fighting the fire.”

Jessica Leblanc said the flames were coming into her bedroom.There is smoke and water damage inside the townhouse, she said. “We had the option to get out, so it could have been a lot worse.”

By the time the first engine arrived, there was an extensive fire on the second floor, said Acting Battalion Chief Lance Mitchell. Crews could see flames and smoke pouring out from the home’s front and back.

Firefighters were told that a 14-year-old girl might be in one of the upstairs bedrooms.

That information changed everything. “We risk life and limb to get in there,” Mitchell said. “Crews did an extremely prompt attack to get in there.”

The first and second floors were checked.

“They managed to search two bedrooms; it looked like the seed of the fire was was possibly in the third bedroom.”

Meanwhile, the fire department was speaking with Victoria police, who reported that the girl may have been seen leaving the building.

Police confirmed they found her elsewhere, safe and sound.

Three people were taken to hospital to be checked for smoke inhalation.

Mitchell said the damage could total more $100,000.

The fire is under investigation.

A relief crew of firefighters had just arrived on scene to help with the Walker Street blaze when a call came in at 4:22 a.m. about a fire at 959 Pembroke St., near Royal Athletic Park and Crystal Pool.

“We were still in the midst of fighting the fire — we still had virtually all crews tied up looking for and extinguishing hot spots — when the Pembroke call came in,” Mitchell said. “We were lucky we had called in another crew that had just arrived.”

The Pembroke building, with three floors, is undergoing renovations and was unoccupied.

Firefighters did an initial attack on the blaze, noting small distinct fires in several locations on two different levels of the home.

The blaze has been deemed suspicious and both the Victoria Fire Department’s fire inspection branch and police are investigating, Mitchell said.

Fire Inspector Chris Kelly confirmed “multiple areas of origin,” but could not give further details. He inspected the fire-ravaged home Wednesday.

“My side of the investigation is complete and in the hands of Victoria police,” Kelly said.

When fire crews began fighting the flames upstairs, a portion of the floor seemed to give way under one firefighter.

Mitchell said he called for the building to be abandoned.

“I didn’t want to put crews in harm’s way,” he said. “We conducted a very aggressive exterior attack.”

Kelly estimates the damage could be about $100,000.

The fires took considerable resources to fight, Mitchell said.

“The crews were phenomenal,” he said. “They are absolutely exhausted. They did four hours of intensive firefighting and their response times were super-quick.”

ceharnett@timescolonist.com