No serious injuries were reported, but residents were displaced to an emergency reception centre after a large apartment fire broke out Thursday night in Parksville.
The fire at the four-storey Oceanside Terrace Apartments, at 240 Island Hwy. W., drew a response from four area fire departments shortly after 9 p.m. as bystanders watched flames engulf the upper floor of the building.
“The entire fourth floor was charged with smoke on arrival, so all our crews were on breathing apparatus when they went inside,” said chief Marc Norris of the Parksville Volunteer Fire Department, which was joined by members of the Qualicum Beach, Errington and Dashwood volunteer departments.
“We brought crews from neighbouring departments to ensure we had enough firefighters on scene to complete the searches and have enough firefighters on air (tanks) up in the building, working to get ahold of the fire.”
One person was rescued from the fourth floor by firefighters, said Norris. A sweep of the building resulted in everybody getting out safely along with many pets, though there was one report that some pets may not have made it out.
Resident Reuben Jahn was about to go to bed when he got a call at about 9:20 p.m.
“I wasn’t going to answer the phone, but I am glad I did,” he said. “The landlady told me to get out of the building.”
Police blocked off a portion of Morison Avenue to allow firefighters to access the area. The fire was mostly extinguished and firefighters moved inside the building shortly after 10:30 p.m. to mop up in the roof area, where smoke still billowed.
“Crews currently have a hold on the fire and are working to fully extinguish the fire, which is in the roof area,” Norris said shortly before 11:30 p.m. Thursday. “The crews are working right now in a difficult area in the roof spaces.”
Norris confirmed witness reports that a roofing company had been working to put a new roof on the structure. Jahn told The NEWS he saw people “with torches” working on the roof.”
“At this point we’re suspecting that was probably the source of the fire, though we can’t confirm that,” Norris said from the scene late Thursday night. A full investigation into the blaze will be conducted.
Residents in the 35-unit complex, situated between Highway 19 and Morison Avenue, near the McDonald’s restaurant, have been relocated to an emergency reception centre at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre.
Residents would not be allowed back into the apartment building overnight, Norris said, adding the local emergency program co-ordinator would be “working on getting them places to stay, possessions and all the things they need.”
Pets rescued from the fire would also be housed through the assistance of the local SPCA, Norris added.
— With files from Ashley Wadhwani, Black Press Digital; and Nicholas Pescod, Nanaimo News Bulletin.