UPDATE: It went up ‘like a tinder box’ – Campbell River hotel fire witness

Joanne Touchie was at the Quinny to have a celebratory graduation drink with her family last night when the fire alarms went off.

“We were just all sitting there not minding the fire alarm because we thought it was all false because we couldn’t smell any smoke or anything,” Touchie said.

Someone ran upstairs to see what was going on. Touchie said not five seconds later he was back downstairs telling everyone to get out.

“When we got across to Petro Canada all of it was just engulfed in flames and the building was just burning down like a tinder box,” she said. “It was just unreal.”

The fire department arrived on the scene just after midnight, said Fire Chief Ian Baikie.

“The fire was pretty showy at that time when we arrived, coming out of windows and doors on both those levels,” he said. “We weren’t able to do searches of that area because the fire was so involved. We moved to a defensive posture and put a lot of water on the fire from both the front and the back.”

Baikie is “fairly comfortable” that everyone got out safely, however one man was transported to the hospital due to smoke inhalation.

Now that the fire is out and the sun is up, the damage appears extensive.

“It’s a single story building with a pile of rubble on top of it with water and smoke damage below,” Baikie said.

Though the newer part of the building doesn’t have as much smoke damage, Baikie thinks it is a total loss.

“(But) we’ll have to wait for others who are more in that business to tell us,” he added.

The highway was closed in the area from midnight until 9 a.m. this morning for operations and motorist and pedestrian safety, Baikie said.

“We brought in an excavator at about 8 o’clock this morning and he pushed some of the teetering pieces back into the fire so the walls were leaning out on the second floor and such and we weren’t comfortable letting people be close to it,” Baikie said.

The department had four fire trucks on scene and 20 firefighters. The Salvation Army attended the event with their mobile kitchen to supply food and the Campbell River Emergency Social Services Team (CRESST) as well as the Red Cross was on site helping those displaced by the fire.

CRESST arrived on scene around 2 a.m. Rick Wall, the team leader and a volunteer, then arranged for a city bus to come to the site to be used as a mobile reception centre.

The first order of business was to get the now homeless people calmed down and out of the cold.

“We did the registrations and provided the emergency support services that the province authorized for 72 hours,” Wall said.

CRESST provided funds for necessetities and up to 72 hours of accomodation for the victims of the fire. They are being connected with other social services in the city for long term solutions, Wall said.

The fire department had responded to a small countertop fire earlier that day at the Quinsam Hotel, but Baikie said that fire did not cause the fire later in the day.

“All parts of that fire were done when I left there yesterday at five,” Baikie said. “There is no way that fire could have contributed to the thing at midnight…But the fact that we didn’t have a cause for the 4 o’clock fire might lend itself to further investigations as to what happened at midnight.”

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