Fire destroys Courtenay building amid toxic fumes
A fire involving toxic fumes destroyed the former Buckerfields building at McKenzie Avenue and Cumberland Road on Tuesday evening.
Plumes of smoke could be seen throughout downtown Courtenay shortly after 6 p.m. as the fire ripped through the building that housed Just'n Tyme Greenhouse & Hydroponic Supply.
According to police, there were explosions inside the building that contained chemicals and fertilizer.
Firefighters were called out at about 6:15 p.m. The last truck left the station at 2:17 a.m.
"Very stubborn fire," deputy fire chief Kurt MacDonald said. "Just construction of the building. It did have a high fuel load in it, so made it difficult. We weren't able to put any crews in initially, just because of how fast the fire developed."
Much of Cumberland Road and McPhee Avenue was closed off as firefighters battled the blaze with water and foam.
"It's definitely a longer fire," MacDonald said. "We don't get a lot of commercial fires, thank God."
Courtenay fire chief Don Bardonnex and another firefighter both suffered heat exhaustion.
"He just got a little too hot," MacDonald said. "It happens to the best of us...Just guys working too hard is what it boils down to."
One was treated at the scene and cleared to return while the other was checked at hospital before resuming duties.
Comox Valley RCMP attended the blaze, the cause of which remains under investigation.
"When you have a fire of that magnitude it's better off to get all the agencies involved right off the ball, and then as you start to roll things out you can release those agencies," MacDonald said. "Right now they (police) are the lead investigators on the fire. Once they've gone through it and determined the cause then they'll take the appropriate course. It's better to err on the side of caution and get everybody involved."
Police said there were many unco-operative bystanders who endangered their lives by placing themselves in harm's way against the direction of authorities. A man was arrested for failing to follow police direction.
Anyone with information about the fire is asked to contact the Comox Valley RCMP at 250-338-1321. Should the caller wish to remain anonymous, please call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).