A man is under arrest after a fast-moving fire at the Blanshard Courts apartment complex caused widespread damage and evacuations early Friday morning.
Victoria police were already responding to a fight at the apartment complex in the 2500-block of Blanshard Street at 4 a.m. when the fire started.
Police evacuated everyone from the area before taking the man into custody.
The damage to the complex is extensive and has left the suites uninhabitable. As a result, many the building’s residents have been relocated.
Two officers were taken to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.
Forensic and major crime units are investigating the fire but say they have not found a link to any of the recent fires in Victoria, including the Plaza Hotel blaze.
Police are looking for witnesses and any information about the fire that could help with the investigation
Firefighters were called to the apartment and townhouse community at around 4 a.m. for reports of a fully engulfed suite.
Crews found a fast-moving blaze in the upper section of an apartment suite with eight people inside. Firefighters initially knocked down the inferno, but it was later found to be smouldering in the attic.
"This was a wind-driven fire," said Victoria fire battalion chief Wayn Moody. "We had a knockdown from the inside but in the meantime the fire was progressing through the attic space."
Moody called the fire suspicious, adding "usually suspicious means deliberately set."
Firefighters say the call for service actually came from police officers and not the public.
Resident Alexandra MacDonald said she was awoken by police knocking on her door at 4 a.m. telling her to get out of the building.
"There was flames coming out the window and a lot of smoke, heavy smoke. It was chaotic," she said.
MacDonald got her five children out of the building and said a mother and four kids lived in the suite that caught fire. She reported that all five residents of the suite were seen outside after the fire.
"I'm just hoping my cats are OK because of the smoke," she said. "All these kids are safe in here so that's the main thing – everyone's OK."
Early reports indicate around 25 neighbours were told to evacuate the building.
Evacuees were sheltered on a BC Transit bus as the situation unfolded before them.
Traffic on Blanshard Street, near Hillside Avenue, is down to one lane northbound as police and firefighters launch their investigation.