UPDATED: One person dead, more injured, displaced as fire guts North Cowichan apartment units

Police, fire, ambulance crews all were at the scene of a fire on the fourth floor of the Lewis Apartments Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Police, fire, ambulance crews all were at the scene of a fire on the fourth floor of the Lewis Apartments Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Flames shot out of a window on the fourth floor of Lewis Apartments on Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. Several people were injured in the fire. (Robert Barron/Citizen)Flames shot out of a window on the fourth floor of Lewis Apartments on Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. Several people were injured in the fire. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
An EHS helicopter lands at Quamichan School to support the efforts at a fire on Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)An EHS helicopter lands at Quamichan School to support the efforts at a fire on Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Firefighters work on the balcony of a burned out unit at the Lewis Apartments in the 2500-block of Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Firefighters work on the balcony of a burned out unit at the Lewis Apartments in the 2500-block of Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Firefighters work on the balcony of a burned out unit at the Lewis Apartments in the 2500-block of Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)Firefighters work on the balcony of a burned out unit at the Lewis Apartments in the 2500-block of Lewis Street Thursday afternoon. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
A view of the fire at Lewis Apartments on Dec. 31, 2020, from Beverly Street in Duncan. (John Johnson photo)

The B.C. Coroners Service has confirmed that one person has died following a devastating fire at an apartment building in North Cowichan on New Year’s Eve.

“The BC Coroners Service has been notified of one death relating to this incident and we are currently investigating to determine all of the facts. As per the Coroners Act, to protect the privacy of the deceased, we cannot confirm or release identification,” the office said in an email.

Dozens of people milled about in a daze in front of Lewis Apartments on Lewis Street in the Municipality of North Cowichan Thursday afternoon as firefighters fought a blaze that swept through units on the fourth floor, sending residents scrambling to escape the inferno.

The call came in at 12:52 p.m. and fire crews from Duncan and North Cowichan’s South End as well as Maple Bay and Crofton halls were quickly on the scene and began putting up ladders to help people escape their balconies on the third and fourth floors, as well as beginning to put the fire out. Forty-two firefighters in all attended the scene.

According to BCEHS, 10 ground ambulances were dispatched, in addition to an air ambulance.

Major injuries are reported.

One witness said they saw two people jump from the burning building.

“Paramedics cared for multiple patients onsite before transporting six patients in stable condition and one patient in serious condition to hospital by ground,” said BCEHS spokesperson Sarah Morris. “One other patient, in critical condition, was cared for by our Critical Care Team and flown by air ambulance to a higher level of care facility.”

One woman at the scene, who asked that she not be identified, said she was visiting a fourth floor apartment when a loud explosion was heard next door, followed by the smell of smoke.

“We couldn’t get out of there fast enough,” she said.

“It went off like a bomb. We barely got out.”

The Cowichan Valley Regional District said set up an emergency reception centre at the Cowichan Community Centre, but all apartment residents were able to be accomodated at hotels.

Martin Drakeley, manager of fire and bylaw for the Municipality of North Cowichan, said the RCMP are in charge of the investigation into the fire.

North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP were asking people to avoid the area as roads are blocked to all vehicle and foot traffic.



sarah.simpson@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

cowichan valleyfire

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

Danielle Groenendijk raised more than twice her goal for Parkinson’s Canada. (Photo submitted)
VIU volleyball athlete doubles fundraising goal for Parkinson’s

Daily runs over 30 days by Groenendijk add up to 254 kilometres

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New street signs in Duncan in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional native names on signs

Possible COVID-19 exposures may have occurred at Alexander Elementary School on Jan. 13, 14 and 15. (Google Maps)
Alexander Elementary in Duncan announces possible COVID-19 exposures

Exposures may have occurred on Jan. 13, 14 and 15

North Cowichan to add three more off-leash dog areas in the new year. (File photo)
North Cowichan adds three new off-leash areas

Trial program runs through 2021, but not the summer months

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Nanaimo RCMP are seeking the public’s help after a man allegedly assaulted a clerk at James General Store on Victoria Road on Jan. 18. (Submitted photo)
Suspect screams at customer then assaults store clerk in Nanaimo

RCMP asking for information about Jan. 18 incident at James General Store

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Members of the BC RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) is on route to Drummond Park opposite of Fulford Habour on Saltspring Island after the discovery of a suspicious cylindrical-shaped device. (Google/Screencap)
Bomb disposal unit en route to Salt Spring Island after suspicious device found in park

Police say a resident discovered the device Wednesday morning in Drummond Park opposite BC Ferries terminal

Most Read