The unmistakable smell of smoke and burnt plastic lingers near the charred remains of a trailer at Thetis Lake Campground and Trailer Park.
The trailer went up in flames July 2, with nearly two dozen firefighters from the View Royal and Colwood fire departments battling the blaze. West Shore RCMP has deemed the incident “suspicious” and continues to investigate the fire, which forced the evacuation of 10 nearby mobile homes, although the fire did not spread to any surrounding structures.
Eric Gieringer, site manager for the facility, said efforts have been made to clean up the trailer park, which has seen six residents evicted since the fall, the last being the owner of the trailer involved in the fire.
“He’s a hoarder,” said Gieringer, adding that the man was “collecting more and more garbage and then we had to deal with him.” They started the eviction process in the spring and gave the man about two and a half months to leave.
The resident spent June removing some items from the trailer, and park operators believed he was preparing to move, Gieringer said. The man was seen there the day of the fire, but it was believed he had left before the fire started.
“An hour or so later the trailer blew up,” Gieringer said, adding that no one saw the man on scene when the fire started. “It’s an odd coincidence.”
View Royal Fire Chief Paul Hurst said crew members fighting the fire last week were concerned with the fact three or four mobile homes were situated within 10 to 15 feet of the blaze, and vented gas from propane tanks stored inside and around the trailer was causing the fire to spread.
The presence of the propane tanks also made for a difficult and dangerous situation for firefighters. Hurst, noting he was concerned for their safety, said it was “far too dangerous to enter the trailer without knocking down (the fire) from a distance.”
Gieringer acknowledged residents’ fears that night as well.
“People here were scared out of their minds,” he said, noting they were all amazed the propane tanks didn’t blow. “There’s no way that was an accident.”
West Shore RCMP spokesman Const. Alex Berube was unable to disclose details of the investigation, but said police were awaiting the fire investigation report.
“Our major crime unit is taking over that investigation,” he said. “We’ll see what the investigation will show and take appropriate actions.”
In the meantime, the trailer site is considered a crime scene. Gieringer admits it will be a long road ahead before the tape can come down, the site can be cleared and they can move on.