Alberni Valley fire crews were called to what turned out to be a non-fire at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 21.
The Port Alberni Fire Department initially reported on social media that the department was responding to a structure fire in the 3400 block of Third Avenue, at Dunbar Street.
— Port Alberni Fire (@portalbernifire) January 22, 2021
The building is the former Acklands-Grainger location, which is under new ownership. The call to 911 came in that smoke could be seen from the roof. While it appears to be empty, there are people using the building, Port Alberni Fire Department deputy Chief Wes Patterson said.
“On arrival we had what appeared to be smoke (coming from the roof),” Patterson said. “It smelled like an electrical fire. Some crews initially checked the roof out, realized it appeared to be coming from inside. They made entry, found out that the building is in use and that it was a venting issue,” he said.
“There was a lot of moisture coming out with it.” The temperature at the time was 1 degree Celsius.
The aroma of cannabis could be detected around the building. Patterson said federal paperwork was produced to fire officials. Port Alberni RCMP Sgt. Peter Dionne said the next day the operation was legal under the federal Canadian Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations. Health Canada does not require licence holders to notify police of their operations, Dionne added.
Power and natural gas to the building were both cut off so crews could investigate.
“Because it is a large industrial building and it appeared to be heavy smoke coming from the building, we did initiate an automatic mutual aid,” he said. Fire crews from Port Alberni, volunteer fire departments from Sproat Lake, Beaver Creek and Cherry Creek all responded, as well as an ambulance and RCMP.
“Thankfully, it turned out it was excess moisture being removed from the building,” he said. “The building’s OK.”
No one was hurt in the incident, although there were two people working inside the building at the time. “There were two occupants in the building at the time but they were in a far corner and didn’t come out until they started hearing us making entry.”