A Duncan woman has been charged with one count of arson damaging property after a fire swept through a housing complex with five living units in it on Auchinachie Road just outside Duncan early on Feb. 5.
Martin Drakeley, North Cowichan’s manager of fire and bylaw services, said fire crews from the South End and Maple Bay fire halls responded to the call at 2:26 a.m. and found one of the units fully engulfed in flames.
He said it took 25 firefighters and eight firefighting vehicles to put the blaze out over the next three hours.
Drakeley said there were no injuries among the approximately 12 people who were in the living units when the fire began, and no one had to be rescued.
Rhiannon Heather Midgley was in Duncan court Thursday morning on charges related to the fire.
She was arrested at the scene on Feb. 5, and was the resident of the unit where the fire started. She has been remanded into custody.
Arson investigators are continuing to examine the scene and gather evidence.
Some of the units on the opposite end of the complex where the blaze was centred were spared the worst of the fire and water damage, but the homes remained evacuated on the morning of Feb. 6 until the tenants are given the green light to enter them after they are inspected.
“The people were assessed on scene and some were taken in by the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s community services department,” he said.
Pat Toutant, a neighbour on Auchinachie Road, said he awoke just after 2 a.m. and saw the fire and tenants from the housing complex assembling on the street.
He said he went outside in his pajamas and invited seven or eight of them, including seniors and young children, into his home to keep warm and get their bearings.
“They all seemed OK, although they were pretty shook up and nervous,” Toutant said.
“I put on a pot of coffee to help mellow them out and then there were fire trucks everywhere setting up to fight the fire. A little after that, people from the [community services department] came and took some of the tenants to hotels, while others went to stay with their families.”
“It’s a tragedy that so many people are displaced from their homes due to this fire,” said Operations Support NCO, Sergeant Trevor Busch. “Thankfully no one was injured.”
If you have any further information regarding this crime, please call the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP at 250-748-5522. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at cowichancrimestoppers.com to leave a secure tip online, or call 1-800-222-8477.