A fire sparked at a Greater Victoria homeless encampment early Thursday morning left one man displaced.
Just after 4 a.m. on Jan. 14, a 911 call came in about a fire at a “well-entrenched encampment” on Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure land between the Pat Bay highway and the McKenzie Avenue off-ramp.
The Saanich Fire Department responded and found an established fire upon arrival, explained Deputy Chief Dan Wood. He added that the blaze was bright and the smoke was dark because of the burning plastic tarps so it was visible from the highway.
Saanich fire investigators and a representative from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure are inspecting the site of an early morning fire — an encampment between the Pat Bay Highway and McKenzie Avenue. @saanichnews pic.twitter.com/MMyWCCauys
— Devon Bidal (@devonscarlett) January 14, 2021
A group of unhoused individuals have been camping on this piece of ministry land for about eight years. Officials were aware and have responded to other fires and noise complaints in the past, Wood said.
When firefighters arrived on Thursday, they found about four shelters built from palettes and roofing material, a greenhouse and a yurt.
Only one shelter caught fire and no one was injured, Wood said. The single occupant got out but has been displaced because his shelter was completely burned.
The fire was extinguished by about 4:40 a.m. and by 8:30 a.m., fire investigators and Saanich police were on scene looking into the cause. Wood said there was a wood stove in the shelter and a generator but the cause has yet to be confirmed.
He noted noise complaints and calls about open burning have gone up in the area because the newly completed apartments nearby overlook the encampment. First responders are getting fed up and the neighbours are irritated, Wood said, but as it’s out of their jurisdiction, they’ve been struggling to deal with it.
He added local officials will be speaking with representatives from the ministry again following this incident to determine a course of action.