Comox Valley RCMP are investigating a suspicious fire on the 2000 block of First Street, where a duplex went up in flames late Friday afternoon following what neighbours describe as “three or four loud bangs” going off in the home.
Neighbour Bill Wright, who lives directly across the street from the fire explained he was leaving Willemar Avenue heading home when he looked down the road and saw two “little things burning in the middle of the road.”
“It ended up that they were pieces of articles of clothing that were still on fire. My wife said there were three people that jumped into a truck. She said she’ll never forget the screams that she heard.”
Witnesses describe multiple explosions, and Melissa Thompson, who lives behind the home, placed a 9-1-1 call after the bangs, which knocked photos off her wall and shook her computer.
Courtenay Fire Chief Don Bardonnex said the residence caught fire quickly.
“The house went from nothing to most of the exterior of the house … and went up in a second,” he noted, and added both sides of the duplex sustained major damage.
Comox Valley RCMP Const. Don Sinclair confirmed three men drove themselves to St. Joseph’s General Hospital where police found them with serious injuries.
There are reports the men suffered serious burns to much of their bodies.
Two men were airlifted Friday night to Victoria-area hospitals, and one man was airlifted overnight to a Vancouver-area hospital.
“They’ll probably sustain large areas of burns,” noted Sinclair. “If they were in the residence when the fire started they could have engulfed fumes that could have caused burns in their lungs and throat.”
He added it appears the fire started in the rear of the house, and fire rescue and RCMP obtained a search warrant Saturday to further investigate.
“(They will) look for any evidence that would give us a clue of what happened in the residence and how the fire started,” and added the warrant allows police to secure any evidence for possible charges at a later date.
Sinclair said fire rescue has indicated there is a lot of debris in the backyard including multiple cylinders.
“The members will be looking into this and seeing what they are and if they were a contributing factor to this fire.”