Firefighter Douglas gets hosed down after being inside the burning warehouse Tuesday afternoon. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

Black soot from fire raises toxicity concerns at Vancouver Island medical marijuana facility

Duncan plant off-limits, clean-up on hold until Health Canada can identify exactly what was burning

An industrial site near Duncan remains locked up tight this week due to toxicity concerns tied to a fire at a medical marijuana operation.

Fire broke out at the corner of Drinkwater Road and Highway 18 on Tuesday. Thick smoke was seen billowing out of the Broken Coast Cannabis units of the multi-unit warehouse just before noon, confirmed Tamara Macgregor, a spokesperson for the company.

“The fire department was notified immediately and thankfully — and most importantly — no employees were harmed,” Macgregor said.

RELATED: RCMP ask for public’s help to determine cause of weekend fire

Martin Drakeley, the North Cowichan’s manager of fire and bylaw services, said all told, five trucks and a crew of at least 24 firefighters spent roughly five hours at the site — the last hour or so was spent retrieving employee’s personal effects.

“We couldn’t allow any of the workers in the building due to the smoke concerns because it was quite toxic,” Drakeley explained. “So we had to have our firefighters go in and grab their personal belongings so that they could go home and that took the last hour, hour and a half.”

Drakeley said he was unsure as to the extent of the damage but did note it was extensive to one of the rooms.

“I believe it was a drying room,” he said. “Other than that it was just a little bit of smoke damage to the hallway just adjacent to it on the exterior of that room.”

Toxicity concerns didn’t emerge until the firefighters started coming out of the building covered in a foreign material.

“They were coated in a black soot, which is unusual, especially the darkness of it,” Drakeley said. “They have a protective barrier on the wall when they are doing the drying and it doesn’t allow the moisture, I believe, to get behind it and when it burns obviously it wasn’t hot enough to do complete combustion and there was a lot of unburnt products of combustion that were in the room so once we saw them coming out and they were dark with all the soot, we knew we had some kind of special product in there.”

RELATED: Victoria Fire Department brings in rigs to help stop fire

The fire department is trying to obtain the identity of the product so they can follow up with WHMIS guidelines to clean their gear properly.

Macgregor didn’t know how the fire started or when employees would be back to work.

“Health Canada has been advised and we will work closely with them on next steps, as well as with local authorities to determine the cause of the fire and assess damage once the building is deemed safe for re-entry,” Macgregor said.



sarah.simpson@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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Fire broke out at the Broken Coast Cannabis facility at the corner of Drinkwater Road and Highway 18 on Tuesday afternoon. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)

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