‘Significant’ multi-unit apartment fire leaves Saanich woman dead

Crews work to knock down a fire at a multi-unit apartment complex in Saanich on Friday morning. Saanich Fire Department

A “significant” multi-unit apartment fire in Saanich has left a woman in her 60s dead.

Crews were called to the building in the 2600-block of Richmond Road around 4:30 a.m. on Friday, according to Saanich Fire Department spokesperson Capt. Jerry Tomljenovic.

Firefighters arrived to find heavy smoke and flames showing from a fourth floor balcony, he said.

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“The immediate danger was residents who were trapped on balconies. They actioned four separate rescues and they continued on to fighting the fire within the building,” he said.

Two people were taken to hospital with unconfirmed injuries, he said.

A third person was found unresponsive in a fourth floor hallway and later died of her injuries, Tomljenovic added.

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Tony Delorme, a second-floor resident of the building said he was awakened by the sound of smoke detectors going off.

“Usually its more or less people pull a fire alarm and its a prank, you don’t really expect it to happen like this. When it does it wakes you up a little bit,” he said.

“The top floor was full of smoke… A huge cloud of smoke going out the west part of the building, flames going up and over the roof at times. It was terrible.”

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Saanich Police and the B.C. Coroners Service were called to the scene and are investigating the circumstances surrounding the death.

“Its very early right now, and we’re hesitant to say what caused it,” said Saanich police Det. Sgt. Damian Kowalewich.

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The Saanich Fire Department remains the lead agency on the incident, according to police.

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Tomljenovic said six units were directly affected by the fire and another 18 recieved some smoke or water damage. Emergency support services had been set up at the Cedar Hill Recreation Centre.

On Friday night, fire officials said some of the residents in those suites will likely be out of their homes for “several weeks.”

Police and firefighters have asked drivers to avoid the area, with traffic impacts expected for Richmond Road.

—With files from Sean Boynton

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