Victoria police detectives finish searching debris at Plaza Hotel building

Victoria police major crime detectives have spent the past week combing through the charred debris of the former Plaza Hotel, trying to piece together what caused the fire that destroyed it.

No major breakthroughs have been made public, but Victoria police spokesman Const. Matt Rutherford said Friday that detectives have handed control of the property back to the owners. The century-old building was purchased by West Vancouver company Ocean Gate Developments Ltd. in 2016.

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In July 2017, the company submitted an application to the city to redevelop the site with a proposal to create 100 residential units and ground-floor commercial space within the existing building.

The building was vacated in 2013.

The suspicious fire gutted the former Monty’s strip club and a 65-room hotel at the corner of Pandora Avenue and Government Street on May 6 and burned for four days.

Police and Victoria Fire Department inspectors continue to investigate, but Rutherford said no details will be released in order to protect the integrity of the case.

“These type of investigations are lengthy and an appropriate amount of resources continues to be dedicated to investigating the origin of the fire,” Rutherford said.

Mike Draeger, who was the building’s caretaker and was living there, remains unaccounted for. Police, family and friends are concerned Draeger might have died in the fire.

Victoria Fire Chief Paul Bruce has said that the massive blaze was suspicious because it was already raging when firefighters arrived. That indicates the fire either accelerated very quickly or had been burning undetected, he said.

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