Frantic screams woke Angela Elder up at around 5 a.m. Wednesday morning. Peering through her bedroom window, she could see flames shooting up from a mobile home across the road in the 1200-block of Craigflower Road.
Two people were able to escape from the home just before Elder heard explosions. After calling 911, she began knocking on doors and evacuating the homes adjacent to the flaming structure.
She said an elderly couple, living in one of the homes engulfed in flames, fled the fire with nothing on but what they wore to bed — “no shoes, no coat, no nothing.”
According to Environment Canada, temperatures in some areas of the West Shore reached as low as 1 C Wednesday morning. Esquimalt and Greater Victoria’s core saw temperatures around 5 C.
Martin Sundstorm, another neighbour living in the tight-knit community on the Songhees Nation, heard the screams while having his morning coffee and called 911 as well, before joining Elder, banging on doors to notify neighbours — worried they would have to evacuate the whole park.
Sundstorm wrapped a housecoat around one of the victims of the fire, while Elder found some shoes for another.
The group gathered across the road and watched three trailers become completely engulfed in flames. Other neighbours, watching from above, reported seeing flames shoot at least 100 feet into the air following an explosion.
When View Royal Fire Chief Paul Hurst arrived on scene the flames were too high to try and salvage the homes. Fire crews worked to save nearby homes, using ladders to fight the fire from above. Esquimalt and Colwood fire crews were also called to help fight the fire.
Firefighters noted a few 100-pound propane tanks were venting – letting out propane due to a build-up of excessive pressure within the tank – which is what neighbours believe caused the sounds they heard.
Surrounding hydro lines began to catch fire, that’s when Elder said the scene got really scary.
BC Hydro shut off power in the area to ensure firefighter safety.
According to Hurst, four people were transported to Victoria General Hospital with different injuries. Elder hopes they’ll be able to stay there for the night, as the victim’s families are spread across the country.
Emergency Support Services and a BC Transit bus were on scene to help displaced residents.
Hurst told Black Press Media there is no word on what caused the fire, but every fire is treated as suspicious until deemed otherwise. An investigation team will begin sifting through the rubble of the three destroyed homes, which Hurst believes could take a few days.
Two vehicles were also destroyed and two neighbouring homes received some fire damage.
The fire closed Craigflower Road between Admirals and Tillicum roads for much of the morning commute.
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