Victoria house fire investigated as arson after gas poured through mailbox

Click to play video: 'Priest’s family escapes suspicious house fire in Victoria'
Priest’s family escapes suspicious house fire in Victoria
A family of five escaped a hosue fire in Victoria in the middle of the night, after waking up to someone pouring gas through their mail slot and lighting up the heritage home. They live in the house next to a Ukrainian Catholic church, where the father serves as priest. As Kylie Stanton reports, the investigation is underway, but the motive remains completely unclear – Apr 20, 2022

A family is shaken but safe after a fire ripped through their home in Victoria, B.C., early Wednesday morning.

Father Yuriy Vyshnevskyy, pastor of the Ukrainian Catholic Church of St. Nicholas on Caledonia Avenue, lives with his family in a wooden heritage home beside the church.

He told Global News his wife woke up to noise early in the morning and went to check it out. She then heard a commotion on the front porch and called for Vyshnevskyy to come.

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Click to play video: 'One person in life-threatening condition after Victoria house fire'
One person in life-threatening condition after Victoria house fire

“First she heard this sound, this gulp, gulp, like someone’s emptying a bottle of liquid and then with the smell she could tell it was gasoline and then someone was pouring the gasoline through the mail slot right into the house,” Vyshnevskyy said.

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Const. Cam MacIntyre, media spokesperson for the Victoria Police Department, said when crews arrived on scene flames had engulfed the front door and the front entrance.

“This file is being investigated as an arson,” he said.

“We’re confident that this fire was set and we are continuing our investigation.”

Vyshnevskyy said the fire had broken out by the time he got downstairs, and that he tried putting it out but it spread very quickly.

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He then ran outside through the back door while his wife rushed upstairs to get their three girls who are five, seven and 11 years old.

“They were leaning out of the window, gasping for air,” he said.

Vyshnevskyy said the fire spread so fast that black smoke and fire filled the main floor. His wife and the girls were not able to get back down the stairwell so they were forced to jump from the second-floor bedroom window.

Click to play video: 'Victoria man dies in vehicle fire in Beacon Hill Park'
Victoria man dies in vehicle fire in Beacon Hill Park

His wife was rescued by ladder as a fire truck arrived.

He said his oldest daughter’s arm was cut on shattered glass when she landed. She was then taken to hospital and received stitches.

“Only soft tissues were damaged,” Vyshnevskyy added.

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The family is now staying with friends.

“We’re still trying to wrap our heads around what happened, how it happened, who did it,” Vyshnevskyy added.

MacIntyre said the family’s cat was also found unresponsive but crews were able to revive the animal and take them to a veterinary clinic.

Anyone in the 1100-block of Caledonia Avenue between midnight and 1 a.m. Wednesday is asked to call Victoria police.

MacIntyre added police were investigating a possible connection between the family’s Ukrainian heritage and the nature of the crime.

Vyshnevskyy said he has not received any previous threats.

“This was a shock and this wasn’t an accident, you can tell,” he said. “It was targeted for whatever reason.”

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