Flames ripped through the main building at Tofino’s historic Solwood property Tuesday afternoon.
The Tofino Volunteer Fire Department was called out to the Chesterman Beach site around 2:45 p.m. and found the property’s main building, which is surrounded by several vacation rental cabins, engulfed in flames, according to Tofino Fire Chief Brent Baker.
“Everything inside was wood so it spread super fast…When we arrived on scene we knew that there was nothing that we were going to be salvaging from the inside and our primary objective was defensive to protect the surrounding exposures,” Baker told the Westerly News.
“Once you know that going inside is not an option, you basically establish yourself on all the sides and try and contain the fire as much as possible and keep the surrounding exposures like propane tanks and other buildings, all cooled down and go back and forth between cooling exterior buildings and hitting the primary fire.”
No one was injured and no one is believed to have been on site when the flames occurred. Baker said two of the cabins were rented at the time but the tourists occupying them were fortunately on the beach.
He said 22 members of the Tofino Volunteer Fire Department worked alongside seven members of the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade to extinguish the blaze.
Five members of the Ucluelet Brigade arrived in Ucluelet’s pumper truck and another two Ucluelet firefighters were working in Tofino at the time and had their gear brought out to assist.
Baker said the mutual-aid agreement between both fire departments is vital to keeping the West Coast safe.
“It’s absolutely critical,” he said adding the extra assistance brings added experience and resources.
“We couldn’t do it without the commitment of the people we have in both Tofino and Ucluelet. The ability to work together and just drop everything makes a huge difference.”
Baker said the fire was out at around 9 p.m. and, while the main building was significantly damaged, the defensive strategy worked to keep the cabins safe.
“There’s nothing left inside of it, that’s for sure,” he said. “The surrounding cabins were all perfectly intact; not a speck of damage that we could see by the end of the night last night.”
He added the community stepped up and provided much-needed assistance to the fire crews and the displaced tourists.
“Lots of our firefighters have kids in the schools that have to be looked after and different community members jumped in and picked up kids and looked after firefighters’ children,” he said.
“It really was a community effort. Occupants from the neighbouring houses put the vacation rental guests up for the night. The fire department did an outstanding job but a lot of other people really went above and beyond to help out too.”
He said a cause for the fire was not yet known.