UPDATED: One person dead, more injured, displaced as fire guts North Cowichan apartment units

Police, fire, ambulance crews all were at the scene of a fire on the fourth floor of the Lewis Apartments Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Police, fire, ambulance crews all were at the scene of a fire on the fourth floor of the Lewis Apartments Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Flames shot out of a window on the fourth floor of Lewis Apartments on Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. Several people were injured in the fire. (Robert Barron/Citizen)Flames shot out of a window on the fourth floor of Lewis Apartments on Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. Several people were injured in the fire. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
An EHS helicopter lands at Quamichan School to support the efforts at a fire on Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)An EHS helicopter lands at Quamichan School to support the efforts at a fire on Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Firefighters work on the balcony of a burned out unit at the Lewis Apartments in the 2500-block of Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Firefighters work on the balcony of a burned out unit at the Lewis Apartments in the 2500-block of Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Firefighters work on the balcony of a burned out unit at the Lewis Apartments in the 2500-block of Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Firefighters work on the balcony of a burned out unit at the Lewis Apartments in the 2500-block of Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
A view of the fire at Lewis Apartments on Dec. 31, 2020, from Beverly Street in Duncan. (John Johnson photo)

The B.C. Coroners Service has confirmed that one person has died following a devastating fire at an apartment building in North Cowichan on New Year’s Eve.

“The BC Coroners Service has been notified of one death relating to this incident and we are currently investigating to determine all of the facts. As per the Coroners Act, to protect the privacy of the deceased, we cannot confirm or release identification,” the office said in an email.

Dozens of people milled about in a daze in front of Lewis Apartments on Lewis Street in the Municipality of North Cowichan Thursday afternoon as firefighters fought a blaze that swept through units on the fourth floor, sending residents scrambling to escape the inferno.

The call came in at 12:52 p.m. and fire crews from Duncan and North Cowichan’s South End as well as Maple Bay and Crofton halls were quickly on the scene and began putting up ladders to help people escape their balconies on the third and fourth floors, as well as beginning to put the fire out. Forty-two firefighters in all attended the scene.

According to BCEHS, 10 ground ambulances were dispatched, in addition to an air ambulance.

Major injuries are reported.

One witness said they saw two people jump from the burning building.

“Paramedics cared for multiple patients onsite before transporting six patients in stable condition and one patient in serious condition to hospital by ground,” said BCEHS spokesperson Sarah Morris. “One other patient, in critical condition, was cared for by our Critical Care Team and flown by air ambulance to a higher level of care facility.”

One woman at the scene, who asked that she not be identified, said she was visiting a fourth floor apartment when a loud explosion was heard next door, followed by the smell of smoke.

“We couldn’t get out of there fast enough,” she said.

“It went off like a bomb. We barely got out.”

The Cowichan Valley Regional District said set up an emergency reception centre at the Cowichan Community Centre, but all apartment residents were able to be accomodated at hotels.

Martin Drakeley, manager of fire and bylaw for the Municipality of North Cowichan, said the RCMP are in charge of the investigation into the fire.

North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP were asking people to avoid the area as roads are blocked to all vehicle and foot traffic.



sarah.simpson@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

cowichan valleyfire

Just Posted

There are lots of resources for seniors looking for information about COVID-19. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
COVID questions? Here are some phone-based resources available for seniors

Here is a list of numbers to keep on hand for Vancouver Islanders who aren’t fond of computers

Chum Salmon fry being examined with multiple motile and attached sea lice on Vargas Island. (Cedar Coast Field Station photo)
Study: Tofino fish farm sea lice infestations add fuel to push to remove open pens

Ahousaht First Nation asking for higher standards than what DFO requires

Interior Health nurses were administering COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aides in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. In Salmon Arm on March 11, guests, staff and support personnel at the Salvation Army's Lighthouse Shelter at McGuire Lake were vaccinated. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
Roden: I can’t wait to get shot

What, me worried about the COVID-19 vaccine? Not in the slightest

Victoria police are looking for a 38-year-old man after he allegedly assaulted and choked a missing 15-year-old victim in Beacon Hill Park Tuesday night. (Black Press Media file photo)
15-year-old choked in Beacon Hill tent, Victoria police assaulted while intervening

Police searching for 38-year-old suspect, two officers injured in altercation with park residents

Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district teachers’ union, and its counterparts from Mount Arrowsmith district, seek stricter COVID-19 rules. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith teachers’ union asks for stricter COVID-19 measures

Teachers ask for vaccine, more online learning, mask mandate for primary students

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Royal Roads University president Philip Steenkamp and gardener Greg Higgs restart the restored water wheel at the campus’ Japanese Garden. (Photo courtesy of Royal Roads University)
Restored water wheel returns to Japanese Garden at Royal Roads in Colwood

The wooden wheel was initially installed betweem 1915 and 1930

Nanaimo-based musician Shawn Hall, the ‘Harpoonist’ in the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer blues duo, is presenting a free, live-streamed show from the Port Theatre on April 23. (Photo courtesy Colin McTaggart)
Nanaimo musician Shawn Hall presents free online show from the Port Theatre

Last year Hall released ‘Satellite Man’ EP with new group Satellite and the Harpoonist

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Most Read