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WOLF: Devastation lingers, one year after blaze destroys businesses

COLUMN: PQB News offices among those razed by Parksville blaze
Firefighters hose down the former PQB News/Vancouver Island Free Daily offices on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. (Michael Briones photo)

I still miss my Calvin Klein overcoat.

And my favourite chair. And being able to sit in my favourite chair.

In yet another example of how time flies, it’s already been a year since I sat grimly on the side of the road late into the night, watching a variety of Parksville businesses razed by fire.

One of those businesses was the offices of the PQB News/Vancouver Island Free Daily.

I said at the time I immediately recalled the words of a gruff old former editor: “When you cover the news, you don’t want to be the news.”

In this case, he was correct.

But it didn’t start out as us being the news.

I was doing my usual nightly lap around the online news circuit when I first caught wind something was amiss.

A couple of posts indicating sirens. Then mention of a fire. Then it started to hit a little closer than usual.

I messaged intrepid reporter Michael Briones, saying something may be amiss.

Then, a text: “The British Bobby is on fire.”

Oh, no.

Another text: “It’s La Belle that’s on fire.”

Oh, no again. Time to head to the office, at the Pacific Heritage Centre.

When I reached the scene, Michael was already on-scene, as were dozens of firefighters from a variety of area departments, plus a host of onlookers watching the scene unfold.

I initially didn’t believe our office was in danger.

I wrote at the time:

Our office is two doors from the British Bobby. At first, as I watched firefighters rain water onto the roof from a sky-high ladder and blast even more from ground level, I thought “they might be able to save our office.”


Flames raced through the ceiling and room of the building like Connor McDavid through the neutral zone.

It quickly went from “maybe it’s just a little fire and everything will be OK” to a full-on horror show.

You could feel the searing heat from the road on a cold November night.

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I can’t imagine what it’s like for a firefighter right in the middle of everything.

I watched, transfixed for what seemed like hours more, then headed home. Fortunately, if there is a ‘fortunately’ in a case like this, there were no reported injuries.

The next day, I returned and it was quiet, but still a nightmare scene.

I was able to recover our backup server which was somehow protected in my desk, but everything else was pretty much gone.

Thanks to technology, we were still able to carry on editorially – getting out the story that night and the next week’s print issue away on time as well.

We’ve since found a now shiny office (174 Corfield St., No. 203). I plan to be there to say hello to visitors once I’m done dealing with post-surgery complications (still, pop by and smile at all of my co-workers).

But it’s still hard to process. It’s already been a year ago as of Nov. 9 but it many ways seems like yesterday. (Check out Kevin Forsyth’s update piece on Page A3).

I still look at the accompanying photo with this piece and know my desk is right there up front, amid the rubble and the flames.

My heart still goes out to all the people at the other businesses – having poured their lives into their work, only to have everything turned upside down through no fault of their own.

I’ll never forget the outpouring of support from the community, which continues to this day.

I’ll forever admire the efforts of our firefighters, that day and every day.

And, as mentioned, I am more than content with us covering the news in our communities – not being the news in our communities.

PQB News/Vancouver Island Free Daily editor Philip Wolf welcomes your questions, comments or story ideas. He can be reached by email at or by phone at 250-905-0029.

Philip Wolf

About the Author: Philip Wolf

I’ve been involved with journalism on Vancouver Island for more than 30 years, beginning as a teenage holiday fill-in at the old Cowichan News Leader.
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