One house was badly damaged, two more were scorched and a fourth suffered heat and smoke damage after a fire broke out in a Parksville home Thursday afternoon and spread through foliage on the property, located at at the corner of Craig Street and Moss Avenue.
Both residents were home but were able to escape the blaze, said Tyrone Heigh, assistant fire chief with Parksville Fire Department. The woman was transported to Nanaimo Regional Hospital, treated for smoke inhalation and released the same day, while the man declined medical attention.
While the investigation into the exact cause of the fire continued through the weekend, Parksville Fire Chief Marc Norris said Saturday the department had determined it began in a bedroom at the west side of the house, “on or adjacent to the bed.
“Due to open internal and external doorways and windows, heat and smoke migration throughout the structure was rapid,” Norris added. “Fire spread from the structure to adjacent auxiliary buildings and hedges, in turn spreading to two adjacent homes and causing damage to a third home.”
Heigh said Thursday the fire department was called shortly before 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon with a report of visible smoke from the home at 106 Moss Ave. Initial rescue crews arrived within six or seven minutes, he said, but quickly found they were dealing with more than a single-structure blaze.
As firefighters pulled hoses and prepared to engage, flames leaped from the building to a doghouse and to an adjacent cedar hedge, and from there to the back deck of the neighbouring house on Moss Ave.
“From inside you could see the fire encroaching on the deck,” said Philip Be’er, who lives in the neighbouring home on Moss. “It was a close call; if there was anything more volatile on that side of the house it could have been a lot worse.”
Within moments one or more of the firefighters spied flames in trees between situated between the next two houses up Craig Street from the corner, as well.
“At first blush, we thought embers from the hedge went over the top of the first (neighbouring) house and burned the opposite side of the house adjacent (to 106 Moss),” said Norris. “Fortunately, one of our crews working on that side of the home recognized it and we were able to extinguish what turned out to be a very minor fire.”
“It was a bit of a scary moment, to say the least,” said Heigh. “There were three families affected here, but the other two (homes) sustained only minor damage.”
Norris said the quick spread of the fire through the dense vegetation around the initial house provides a caution to homeowners.
"People call this the 'wet coast' or they're looking at the moderate rainfall we've had this year, but we are in drought conditions and things are still very dry," said Norris. "It's a good lesson for homeowners that plantings around your house should be well-thought out and fire-safe or fire-smart."
The fire was attended by at least 30 firefighters from Parksville, Errington and Qualicum Beach fire departments, as well as Oceanside RCMP, B.C. Ambulance and BC Hydro crews called to cut power to the home.
Craig Street remained closed between Stanford and Despard avenues for several hours Thursday as crews fire crews secured the property.
“We want to make sure everything is out (of the home); that everything is safe,” said Heigh.
Dozens of neighbours and spectators looked on from the streets or from the playground of the former Parksville Elementary School, located across the street from the burning house, as firefighters knocked down the flames and mopped up.