Two fires claim two Cowichan Valley homes in two days

Dwellings in Youbou and Skutz Falls were destroyed by flames

Two homes in the Lake Cowichan area have been hit with devastating fires this week, both within less than 48 hours.

The first incident occurred Tuesday afternoon at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Lake Boulevard in Youbou. The second took place Wednesday evening at approximately 6:30 p.m. on Skutz Falls Road, less than a kilometre from Highway 18.

Neither fire claimed the lives of occupants, however, both homes were destroyed.

On Tuesday, Youbou Volunteer Fire and Rescue and Lake Cowichan RCMP were called to a three-storey lakefront property that was completely engulfed in flames.

The home’s single occupant escaped without injury, as did her small dog.

The dog was found by a neighbour the following morning.

“The house itself was completely on fire from the water side, so fire [service] was there for quite some time to put it out,” said RCMP Cpl. Travis Strong.

Strong said that in speaking to the homeowner and to neighbours, police do not believe the fire was suspicious in nature.

“Right now we still have to do a little bit of follow-up but we understand it originated with just a wood-burning fire place,” he said. “The good thing is it’s a close-knit neighbourhood so the neighbours are helping to take care of her…  It’s just a very unfortunate thing to have happen.”

On Wednesday, Lake Cowichan Volunteer Fire Department and other detachments from around the lake were called to the scene of another structure fire, this time a mobile home.

Lake Cowichan fire chief Doug Knott said a number of factors made it a challenging fire to fight, most significantly the condition of the property which was filled with a number of obstacles like smaller mobile trailers, a boat, cars and other stored belongings.

“It was a mobile with a bunch of other stuff around it. It was fairly hard to get at… because of the stuff that was in the way. There was a lot of stuff on the property.”

“Please make [your property] accessible. This really hampered our ability. We have large equipment, we need to be able to get in.”

Crews were on the scene until 1 a.m. and ultimately had to bring in a backhoe to dismantle the burnt trailer, which is now completely gone.

Knott said the home had a single female occupant and there were no injuries. He said the fire was most likely started by a wood burning appliance of some kind, which are a common cause of house fires this time of year.

“[Stoves and heaters] work harder and it’s very important that appliances have to be serviced and checked and make sure they’re safe,” he said. “That would be the biggest message if you are using wood heat right now or any other sources of heat, make sure they’re safe. Have them checked, have them cleaned.”

The below-zero temperatures Wednesday night made the work of fire crews especially difficult because everything on the property quickly froze.

Knott also said the property was uninsured.

“So she lost everything without being insured,” he said.

Sybille Sanderson, the CVRD’s emergency program coordinator, was on-scene at both fires this week. She could not provide details about either victim’s condition, but did outline some of the services provided by her department (which administers a provincial emergency program).

“We can provide up to 72 hours of food, clothing, lodging. If they need it, it’s always based on need obviously, it just depends if they have a place to stay,” said Sanderson.

Her department can provide victims with a referral so they can access clothing and groceries, enough to tide them over until they get on their feet again. Sanderson’s department can also provide them with some incidentals such as personal hygiene items or some pet supplies if they have a pet.

Emergency social services does not accept donations of clothing or furniture because the department can easily “end up with a huge pile of unnecessary items” that staff is then tasked with disposing of. She also said until a victim has a new home or living arrangement, it’s not clear just what kinds of donations they’re going to need.

“In the Lake Cowichan area they’re going to be looking to assist these folks. I think that’s great,” said Sanderson.

No community members or organizations have yet said they are accepting or coordinating donations for either fire victim, however area residents have taken to social media to express their desire to help out if they can.

Sanderson said 2016 has been a busy year for her department.

“We’ve had 20 this year. So we’ve had a lot of house fires this year. That’s higher than normal for us,” she said. “I’m not sure exactly what that is all about, but certainly we’ve had a lot of house fires.”

She also echoed Knott’s advice about checking heating appliances, stoves and chimneys now that cold winter weather is here. She said it’s important that residents make sure there’s nothing leaning up against heat sources that could potentially catch fire.

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

Just Posted

Business notes: Downtown Duncan open-air food court opens

What’s happening in Cowichan’s business community

Documentary on legendary Chief Tzouhalem to be filmed in Cowichan

Film is the latest project by Drama Camp Productions

West Shore RCMP arrests five suspects in multi-jurisdictional drug trafficking investigation

Cocaine, prohibited loaded handgun, weapons, stolen vehicles seized

Bottle drive Saturday to assist sick Cowichan teenager and family

Sammy Dubois, 14, disgnosed with rare neurological disorder

Editorial: Alternative approval process is not the enemy

Not everything should go to a referendum.

Horgan says B.C. restart making gains as more people come out of their homes

B.C. announced the easing of more restrictions on businesses, recreation and travel last month

Conservatives say police should be called into investigate WE charity scandal

Trudeau is already under investigation by the ethics commissioner for potential conflict of interest

Amber Alert continues for missing Quebec girls, 6 and 11, and their father

Police issued the alert for Norah Carpentier, 11, and Romy Carpentier, 6, from Levis, Que.

Limit police access to lethal weapons in Indigenous communities: Justice Summit

Grassroots-organized National Indigenous Justice Summit was a free-to-attend two-day videoconference

Campaign aims to raise $50K for young family of deceased Vancouver Island skydiver

James Smith, 34, died July 5 following incident in Nanoose Bay

Canadian policing organization calls for decriminalization of simple illicit drug possession

Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police want policing focus of opioid crisis to be replaced with a health one

Filing deadline in RCMP sexual-harassment class-action extended due to COVID-19

Plaintiffs now have until January 2021 to submit claims for up to $222,000

Jamie Bacon pleads guilty to charge in Surrey Six case

The plea brings an end to a complex legal case that has spanned more than a decade

Hefty undeclared driver charges piling up, ICBC warns customers

Average extra penalty $2,971 after an at-fault accident

Most Read