It took 5 1/2 hours with a massive response from firefighters to finally bring a warehouse fire in Chemainus under control Thursday.
Heavy smoke billowed from the multi-use building located at the intersection of the Trans-Canada Highway and River Road for several hours before firefighters managed to put it out. There were no injuries.
When the smoke subsided, the outward appearance of the building didn’t immediately reflect the extent of the damage.
“Obviously, it was contained inside the building,” said Martin Drakeley, North Cowichan fire chief and senior manager of bylaw services. “There was some ingestions through the ceiling, through the roof.
“In some parts, there’s extensive damage from the smoke. Some parts are heavily charred.”
The building houses a mix of commercial storage and residential space for two units. The site even contained a large store of ammunition that required precautions from firefighters as well as CO2 and propane tanks and a pit in the floor covered by wood.
“It’s quite a maze inside,” noted Drakeley.
North Cowichan Fire Department crews from Chemainus and Crofton halls were first on the scene after the call went out around 9:40 a.m.
“When they arrived, they were told everybody was out of the building,” said Drakeley.
They were later joined by South End and Maple Bay firefighters as well as one engine from Duncan and ladder trucks from Ladysmith and North Cowichan. There were 40 firefighters on the scene at the peak time.
A ladder truck was employed to reach the second floor of the building where the smoke was thickest to allow crews to get closer to attack it.
Drakeley said the investigation into the cause is under way and would continue into Friday.