UPDATE: Building partially collapses under raging fire in downtown Victoria

City issues air quality advisory as fire crews take defensive approach

One man is still unaccounted for in relation to the largest downtown Victoria fire that the city has seen in years.

Shortly after 5 a.m. the Victoria Fire Department responded to fire alarms going off in the 1400-block of Government Street before quickly realizing the fire was actually coming from the neighbouring building at 603 Pandora Ave.

The Plaza Hotel has been abandoned for years, but one caretaker occasionally lived in the building.

The Victoria Fire Department and the building’s owners have not been able to verify if he was in the building or not.

“We’ve been reaching out all morning, but we haven’t heard back from him,” said Fire Chief Paul Bruce. “At this point we have been unable to locate him.”

The Victoria Police Department is also trying to track the caretaker down.

Bruce said that after firefighters entered the building, they got up to the first three floors before realizing flames were coming from the basement and that they had to evacuate. The crew then took on defensive measures from the outside, spraying down the building and protecting adjacent structures.

The fire department does not believe anyone else was in the building, but wants to be certain in tracking down the caretaker. No injuries were reported.

One neighbour reported that the caretaker had been away for a few days, but this could not be confirmed.

READ MORE: Vigorous fire engulfs rear section of Victoria gas station

Buildings between Johnson Street and Pandora Avenue were evacuated; many of the occupants were short term renters through apps like Air BNB and VRBO.

The 600 block of Pandora is closed to traffic, as is the 1400 block of Government Street. It will remain closed for the near future. Bus routes in the area are affected.

READ MORE: Grass fire near Langford school under investigation

Deputy Fire Chief Dan Atkinson said it’s believed the fire started in the basement. At this point there is no known cause of the fire, and it has not yet been determined if it’s suspicious or not.

The City of Victoria issued an advisory that air quality in the area poor, and advised residents and visitors to stay a safe distance away.

Bruce advised that there’s always a possibility of toxic chemicals hitting the air when there’s fire, and that asbestos may have been present the building.

READ MORE: One woman confirmed dead following Esquimalt fire

 

Wendy Hedley and her husband are visiting from Winnipeg, were staying next door. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Firefighters from the Victoria Fire Department battled the blaze from 603 Pandora Ave. on May 6, 2019 (File submitted/Marco Crescenzi)

Just Posted

Port Alberni looks to sell or lease out heritage train station

(By MIKE YOUDS and ELENA RARDON) City staff in Port Alberni will… Continue reading

Port Alberni’s Arrowview Hotel will be demolished

City council chooses lowest of three demolition bids

VIDEO: Man found dead near Alberni teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18

Soapbox derby a success in uptown Port Alberni

Organizers say an adult racing category is coming for 2020

Alberni teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

Two Port Alberni teens are missing after their vehicle was found on… Continue reading

3 dead, 2 missing in northern B.C: Here’s what we know so far

Lucas Fowler, 23, and his girlfriend, Chynna Deese, were shot and killed on July 14 or 15

Horgan hints at Daylight Saving Time changes after record survey response

More than 223,000 online surveys were submitted in the government’s public consultation

Coroner investigating after body recovered from Okanagan Lake

Penticton fire department assisted the RCMP with the recovery of a body Saturday

Overdoses overwhelming in B.C. Interior

Part two: Who’s affected by the current opioid crisis

Kelowna cab driver charged with sexual assault

RCMP received a report May 28 alleging a taxi passenger had been sexually assaulted by a cab driver

Jurors talk about trial of U.S. man convicted in 1987 murders of B.C. couple

Three jurors offer a window into deliberations during the trial

Tubing world record broken on Vancouver Island

But record for length of tubes linked together still has to be confirmed

The Beaverton’s sharp satire thrives in polarized political climate

Canadian TV series’ third season to air Tuesday on CTV after “The Amazing Race Canada”

VIDEO: Young couple found dead in northern B.C. had been shot, police say

Chynna Noelle Deese of the U.S. and Lucas Robertson Fowler of Australia were found along Highway 97

Most Read