An early morning house fire at the Victoria home of a Ukrainian church pastor and his family is being investigated by the Victoria Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit as an arson, police announced Wednesday.
Four family members were uninjured in the blaze, but one daughter of the couple was cut on some broken glass as she escaped from an upper floor window. VicPD officers administered first-aid on scene and she was taken to hospital with what were initially believed to be life-threatening injuries, but later downgraded to non-life-threatening, according to police.
When Victoria firefighters and police arrived at the over 100-year-old home at 1112 Caledonia St. around 1:15 a.m., they found the entranceway engulfed in flames, police said.
VicPD reported that four occupants of the home – the pastor and three daughters – had evacuated by the time emergency crews arrived. A fifth person, the pastor’s wife, required rescue later from her perch outside a second-floor window, confirmed Victoria fire Deputy Chief Dan Atkinson. All five were treated for smoke inhalation.
After entering the home, fire crews discovered what appeared to be the lifeless body of the family’s cat. However, equipped with a pet oxygen mask, they were able to revive the animal and it is now recovering in the Victoria veterinary hospital, Atkinson said.
The old-style construction of the home presented unique challenges for firefighters in knocking the fire down, he added, but based on his experience he believed the home may well be salvageable. Damage estimates were in the range of $400,000 to $500,000.
The pastor officiates at the neighbouring Ukrainian Catholic Church of St. Nicholas, at Cook and Caledonia streets. In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, VicPD Const. Cam MacIntyre said there was no clear evidence this incident may be a hate crime, but investigators are looking at all options.
“We have some information but we need more,” he said in making a plea for public assistance.
Anyone with information not yet shared with police or fire investigators, who may have witnessed unusual behaviour in the area between midnight and 1:30 a.m. Wednesday (April 20), or have dashcam or other video footage from the area of Cook Street and Caledonia Avenue, is asked to contact the VicPD report desk at 250-995-7654 ext. 1. To report anonymously, call Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
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