One man is in custody and two Victoria police officers were sent to hospital following a Friday early-morning fire at the Evergreen Terrace housing complex in Victoria.
The officers were taken to hospital as a precaution for smoke inhalation.
Police were called shortly before 4 a.m. to respond to a dispute at Evergreen Terrace, on Blanshard Street between Bay Street and Hillside Avenue. When officers arrived, they discovered one suite on fire with multiple residents inside.
Police got everyone safely out of the suite and tried without success to put out the fire. As the fire spread into surrounding units, additional officers worked to evacuate a portion of the complex facing Blanshard Street.
A male suspect was taken into custody.
Much of the complex is badly damaged and some residents have been temporarily relocated, police said.
Haend Alrefaei lives with her husband and two young children in a unit around the corner from the suite where the fire originated. She said police knocked on her door around 4:15 a.m. and told her family to evacuate their home.
The flames were large and she worried that the wind would carry them to her unit, she said.
Alrefaei said she waited with her family until about 7 a.m. to be allowed back into their unit.
“It scared [my brother], but it didn’t scare me. I was brave,” her six-year-old daughter said.
Alrefaei said the family who lives in the suite where the fire started had moved in recently and she has never spoken to them.
“The mother, she was crying,” Alrefaei said.
Karen Locke lives in an apartment building close by and often visits her friend who lives three units down from where the fire started.
She said she believes the fire was deliberately set because her friend heard fighting before the blaze erupted.
In November 2016, a fire destroyed eight units at Evergreen Terrace, displacing 35 people. The units have not been replaced.
B.C. Housing is building 21 modular housing units on the site for Indigenous women who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
Police continue to investigate the fire, and ask anyone who witnessed it or has any information to call 250-995-7654.