Shrapnel narrowly missed firefighters in ‘suspicious’ Campbell River house fire

Heavy smoke billows from a house fire at the Wei Wai Kum reserve in Campbell River. The smoke was visible from miles away. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
Flames destroyed a home at 2335 Henderson Ave. on Tuesday morning. No injuries were reported. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
A home on Henderson Avenue was fully involved in fire on Tuesday morning when firefighters arrived on-scene, said Fire Chief Thomas Doherty. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
There were 17 firefighters involved in the Tuesday morning operation at 2335 Henderson Ave. They quelled the house fire and knocked down flames that spread to vinyl siding on a neighbouring home. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

Campbell River RCMP arrested two people by Wednesday afternoon in connection with a suspicious house fire that destroyed a home at the Wei Wai Kum reserve on Tuesday morning.

The home was completely engulfed in flames when police arrived on-scene.

“Suspects in the incident were quickly identified,” said a media release from the Campbell River RCMP. “A female resident of the community was arrested in relation to the offence. She has subsequently been released as the investigation continues.”

“The fire was not random and is being treated as an arson,” the release said, adding that “a team of investigators has been assigned” and the investigation continues.

Later on Wednesday, Sgt. Troy Beauregard confirmed in an email that a second arrest had been made. Police later said the suspect is a male and is under investigation.

Material from exploding propane cylinders narrowly missed firefighters during the blaze, according to Campbell River Fire Chief Thomas Doherty.

“(T)here were multiple propane tanks venting and on fire, there were a number of explosions occurring,” Doherty said in an email. “There was one explosion that sent metal shrapnel flying, just missing myself and one other firefighter.”

No injuries were reported in the house fire at 2335 Henderson Ave. The building was fully involved when firefighters arrived around 9:20 a.m., Doherty said, shortly after firefighters quelled the blaze.

“We’re treating it as suspicious in nature at this point,” he said.

Flames spread to the vinyl siding of a neighbouring home, but firefighters were able to prevent it from spreading further.

“We were able to knock that down, save that home and protect the remaining homes on either side,” he said.

There were 17 firefighters and several fire trucks involved, Doherty said. Crews remained on-scene to watch for hot spots. Firefighters were also receiving health assessments.

Insp. Jeff Preston, detachment commander for the Campbell River RCMP, said the fire was suspicious as he arrived on-scene.

Wei Wai Kum Chief Chris Roberts said he was grateful for the quick action by first responders and the response from residents.

“We’re a tight-knit community,” Roberts said. “When things like this happen, it involves or concerns a lot of people.”

He added he was thankful that neighbouring homes didn’t appear to be damaged and that no one was hurt.

A neighbour who declined to provide her full name said the vinyl siding on her home was “pretty melted” but that insurance would cover the expense.

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Markell Miller, who lives across the street, said his wife saw a man in the doorway of the house moments before the fire started. She was walking to work at the time, Miller said.

“He was doing something at the doorway there,” he said. “After he left, she (saw) a fire there.”

The man then knocked on the doors of both neighbouring homes after the fire was started, Miller said, but no one was home.

After knocking on the doors, the man “just booked it with his car and took off.”

Smoke from the fire was visible from miles away.

Melissa Lambert, who lives in the area, said she went to check on elders with respiratory issues after seeing heavy smoke billowing from the house. Several elders in the neighbourhood are on oxygen, she said.

“We just wanted to make sure their well-being was looked after,” said Lambert, a nurse with Kwakiutl District Council Health. “They were more panicked about what was going on and the situation in the community than their own health.”

A fire hose was damaged during the Tuesday morning operation, and the fire department issued a warning to motorists in a Twitter post.

“Our main water supply hose was run over at this morning’s fire, resulting in it being removed from service due to damage,” the post said. “This was our critical water supply to our firefighters, today your actions jeopardized the safety of our firefighters.”

This story was updated on June 27 with more details from the Campbell River RCMP.


@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

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