Canadian Underwriter

What’s closed in Victoria after commercial fire

May 9, 2019   by THE CANADIAN PRESS

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VICTORIA, B.C. – Days after flames tore through a vacant hotel in Victoria, one man is still missing and smoke lingers, forcing the closure of city hall and several other businesses.

The fire in the former Victoria Plaza Hotel has also forced the closure of Government Street, a main route through the city, while firefighters continue to pour water onto the smoking rubble.

Fire broke out early Monday, flared up Tuesday and continued to smolder Wednesday as the century-old building becomes increasing unstable.

Thick smoke can be seen billowing from downtown Victoria, B.C., on Monday, May 6, 2019. More than two days after flames tore through a vacant hotel in downtown Victoria, smoke still lingers over the downtown core and city hall, which is barely a block away, remains closed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

One wall collapsed and the roof caved in at the height of the fire, while guests at a neighbouring hotel were forced to evacuate as that building suffered smoke and water damage from the blaze next door.

No one was hurt in the evacuation but the search continues for the Victoria Plaza caretaker, who hasn’t been seen since the fire and is sometimes known to stay in the old hotel.

Fire officials are working with Victoria police and the building’s owner in an effort to trace the caretaker.

Several businesses and city hall were shut down as choking smoke descended on the downtown core Monday and a post on the city’s website said the building would remain closed though Wednesday for smoke remediation.

Fire Chief Paul Bruce says the smoke contains everything from wood particles to carbons and chemicals that are released from flooring and carpeting materials.

Council and committee meetings were being held Wednesday in the Capital Regional District building, a block farther from the fire.

Efforts were also continuing to save the facade of the Victoria Plaza but after the flare up Tuesday, Bruce said it was a losing battle.

“We’re a little concerned about floor plates and joists that have now failed, which will create more instability. As hard as we are trying to save the facade, it seems to be an increasingly difficult task,” he says

An additional excavator was brought in Tuesday night to help firefighters ensure the flames were completely out, the city said on its website.

Fencing keeps onlookers at bay, while signs warn “do not enter, collapse zone.”

A cause remains under investigation but the building must be assessed for safety and stability before investigators can enter.

CFAX, The Canadian Press

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