Fire investigators were on scene Thursday morning (Nov. 10), scouring the scene of a major overnight fire at the Parksville Heritage Centre, taking photos and gathering data to find out what caused the blaze that destroyed several businesses.
It took the Parksville Fire Department, along with assistance from Qualicum Beach, Errington, Nanoose, Coombs-Hilliers and Dashwood departments, the entire night to completely douse the flames. On Thursday morning, crews were still out sifting through the fire debris to put out lingering embers.
Parksville Fire Chief Marc Norris said it will take a week to complete their investigation, with six business impacted by the fires.
“We will be dealing with all their insurance companies,” said Norris. “We still don’t now how the fire started.”
Newly elected Parksville Mayor Doug O’Brien was out talking to business owners and firefighters, extending any assistance the city could provide.
“This is devastating,” said O’Brien. “It’s a major loss to the many business owners.”
Dawn Deschamps, co-owner of Labelle Parksville restaurant, one of two food service establishments in the centre that suffered significant damage, was in tears, noting they were just recovering from the slowdown of their business due to the COVID-19 pandemic..
“My first thought was, ‘thank God nobody was hurt,’” said Deschamps, who also owns nearby Serious Coffee. “Thank God the animals were safe and thank God it didn’t jump to Serious. I am devastated for all the business owners that lost everything. So many of us, we are just coming out of the pandemic and to be hit with this is it’s just like you can’t get ahead.”
The owner of the British Bobby Restaurant, Michael St. John, was also shocked to see the restaurant razed. His father John, called him at 1:30 a.m. to inform him the restaurant was on fire.
“I was hoping it wasn’t true,” said St. John. “We just took over the business from my father just over a year ago and I just couldn’t believe what has happened. We were just starting to get good again. We got over the hill (the pandemic) and starting to get back on our feet, then this happens.”
St. John said the British Bobby has been around for more than 20 years and inside the restaurant they had a huge variety of collectibles like memorabilia from movie sets and old English teapots. They hope to rebuild.
Staff at the Heritage Animal Hospital, who opened a little more than a year ago, are still looking for one of their two in-house cats that ran away. They too are devastated.
The six businesses that lease office space at the centre include the Parksville Qualicum Beach News.
The other businesses that suffered significant losses include Upward Refillery and NextGen Automation.
“While we are unable to use our office following the fire, our team is working remotely and with our sister papers on Vancouver Island to ensure that the PQB News will publish a Nov. 16 edition,” said publisher Teresa Bird.
“We are grateful to the emergency workers and the building management for their diligence during the night, as well as to the community who have already been responding with offers of assistance.”