Fire breaks out in homeless camp under Courtenay bridge
Hours after dealing with a series of arson fires, Courtenay fire crews were called to a blaze under a bridge early Sunday morning.
Firefighters responded at 4:45 a.m. to a bridge at the corner of Headquarters Road and Rennison Road, where a homeless encampment was set up.
“We’re surveying it right now to see how much damage there is to the bridge, and what are the repairs needed and the clean-up as well,” David Turenne, bridge manager for Mainroad North Island Contracting, told CTV News Monday.
“There was a lot of possessions that burned up. We’re not sure the source of the fire but we feel that it could have been from some propane heaters.”
Fire officials and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure are still investigating the cause of the blaze.
Turenne said it’s common to have homeless people sheltering under the bridge, especially during cold and wet weather.
“Fires are quite unusual,” he said. “People are normally pretty good about that.”
A suspect was arrested Saturday in connection with a series of fires in downtown Courtenay.
The largest of the fires was at the Cona Hostel, where flames engulfed the second floor.
"I saw the door was burning and I kicked the door in to make sure everybody was safe, and I ran to the other rooms, just to get my friends out of there," said Michael Vestergaard, a seasonal worker who'd been living at the hostel.
He was able to escape with his Denmark passport and work visa, while others left empty-handed.
Crews were alerted to two other fires at about 10 a.m. Saturday which were sparked within minutes of each other, according to fire officials.
Comox Valley RCMP said the suspect remains in custody while investigators continue to gather evidence.
Police are asking any witnesses to come forward, saying there were likely a lot of people in the area when the fires started.