Four Langford householders got out safely as their Bear Mountain home was being torn apart by fire early Tuesday morning.
Initial investigations determined that the cause of the blaze was related to a ground level hot tub behind the home, according to Langford Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Chris Aubrey.
The fire department began receiving calls from residents in the neighbourhood at around 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, including one from a resident two doors up from the home at 2169 Hawk Pl., saying they could see smoke and flames. Many callers weren’t quite sure where the source of the fire was, given the hilly topography of the immediate area, Aubrey said.
Fire crews arrived within about four minutes, and used a high-pressure stream to try to knock down the fire from Bear Mountain Parkway, one street below Hawk Place to the rear of the home.
Crews from all three Langford fire stations, about 30 firefighters in total, worked for hours to douse the blaze. The last crew left about 6:30 a.m.
“They awoke to the sound of fire,” Aubrey said later Tuesday morning after interviewing the residents, a retired couple whose adult son lived in the basement area with his girlfriend. “They thought it was hail.”
He commended the family for their decision to exit the house immediately and not attempt to return to save pets or retrieve valuables. “Going back in would have put them in grave danger because of the amount of smoke and how rapidly the fire spread.”
Firefighters were able to rescue a chameleon and a snake, which were checked out by an exotic pet specialist and appear to be doing fine.
The house may have to be torn down, with damage estimated at about $500,000, Aubrey added.
He and Capt. Lance Caven inspected the charred remains of the home’s interior to find the cause of the fire, along with gas and electrical inspectors. The rear of the home was completely destroyed, with other areas inside damaged by smoke and water.
Next door neighbour John Meckbach, who has lived next to the family for a number of years, was staying with his wife and daughter offsite when the fire occurred. He arrived midway through the ordeal to find the house engulfed in flames.
Were it not for the work of the firefighters, he said, his own home could well have been part of the fire. A neighbour who lives below on Bear Mountain Parkway told him that at its peak, flames were shooting upwards of 30 feet into the air and coming out sideways toward his house.
“I just feel so bad for Rene and Noreen; they’re the sweetest people,” Meckbach said of the owners. “This was their retirement home. They put so much time into their backyard and rebuilding the back deck.”
Word about the situation travelled quickly, he said. Aware that the residents escaped with just their night clothes, a representative from the Westin Bear Mountain, working in conjunction with Emergency Social Services, offered up temporary lodging at the hotel plus food vouchers to use while they sorted out their affairs.
Buzz around social media amongst friends in the neighbourhood was also busy Tuesday morning, Meckbach said, with people asking what they could do to help. Watch the Gazette’s Facebook page and Twitter for information on efforts to help the family get re-established as they become known.