Flames tore through the Four Cedars townhouse complex on Dingwall Street in North Cowichan on Wednesday night, displacing many of those who lived there and sending six residents to Cowichan District Hospital, one in serious condition.
Crews from all four North Cowichan fire halls were called out to the blaze at 2520 Dingwall: South End, Maple Bay, Crofton and Chemainus.
One witness who lived in the complex, said he was awoken around 10:40 p.m. and fled his residence along with his neighbours. While his unit was spared by the quick action of firefighters, he wasn’t able to return home Wednesday night.
Rebecca Benard lives about 50 feet from where the fire was and estimated it affected six units.
“I could feel the heat,” she said.
Emergency Social Services was called to help those affected by the fire, finding them beds for the next few nights.
Barb Floden, spokesperson for the Municipality of North Cowichan said Thursday the cause of the fire is still unknown.
“Crews contained the fire but multiple units were affected. An investigation into the fire is underway,” she said. “Displaced residents are being assisted the CVRD emergency social services.”
Cowichan Valley Regional District spokesman Kris Schumacher on Thursday said emergency social services members are still registering those affected.
“At this point my Emergency Management colleagues tell me they believe approximately 40 people in total,” he said.
Aislon Burnam-Sheets said she’s not allowed to go home for at least 72 hours.
Burnam-Sheets lives at the Four Cedars and had been sleeping when she heard banging.
“We had a man pounding on our bedroom,” she said of the neighbour alerting her to the fire. “The guy from where the fire started.” She said she shares a wall with the unit believed to have been the first to burn.
Burnam-Sheets said it was her understanding that the man who was telling her to get out was later taken to hospital with burns.
Layla Redekopp was at the hospital being treated for an unrelated injury when she saw paramedics bring at least one patient in.
“I know it was a fire on Dingwall Street,” she said. “The guy that was brought in was burnt really bad and had to be airlifted.”
Redekopp said the man’s family was with him while at CDH and she believed him to be a teen but couldn’t confirm.
BC Emergency Health Services spokesperson Shannon Miller said her organization got the call at 10:39 p.m.
“Multiple ambulances responded to the scene. A total of six patients were cared for by paramedics and transported to hospital from the scene,” Miller noted. “Five patients were in stable condition. One patient in serious condition was transported by air ambulance to a higher level of care hospital.”
Residents of Dingwall Street also witnessed a fire that destroyed a vacant home on the same street just over a year ago.
That fire was in the early morning hours of Aug. 1, 2020 and like this time, neighbours were thankful to North Cowichan’s fire crews for keeping it under control.