A cause for the fire that displaced four Tofino locals when it engulfed their home early Monday morning remains a mystery, but investigtors have ruled out foul play.
“We can say with certainty that it originated in the garage, but the exact cause of it we still don’t know and we may never know unfortunately,” Tofino Fire Chief Brent Baker told the Westerly News on Tuesday afternoon. “It did not start inside the house and it definitely did not start from the vehicle. Those things we know for sure.”
The vehicle was parked in the garage when the fire began and was completely destroyed in the fire.
“There was definitely explosions from the vehicle and likely a propane tank as well,” Baker said.
Four people lived in the home: a local couple, their nine-year-old daughter and a tenant. All escaped without injuries, but their home and much of their belongings were destroyed.
The fire was first spotted by Tofino RCMP during a routine patrol of the 600 block of Alberto Road around 12:25 a.m. on Dec. 4, according to a Tofino RCMP media release.
Police immediately alerted the Tofino Volunteer Fire Brigade and ensured the safety of the occupants and surrounding residents, including an evacuation of nearby homes at risk of spreading flames.
“The Tofino Volunteer Fire Department attended the scene and were able to extinguish the while containing it to the original residence,” the release states. “Despite the quick action of the Fire Department, the home suffered significant damage.”
Baker said extinguishing the fire was a joint-effort between Tofino and Ucluelet’s fire crews.
“Everybody is safe and sound, as far as we know, pets included,” he said adding Ucluelet’s assistance is vital during emergency events. “It’s extremely valuable. We gain manpower, but also knowledge and expertise. It’s invaluable having that mutual aid agreement between the two communities.”
The RCMP noted the rapid response of first responders was key in everyone escaping the incident unharmed.
“The quick action of RCMP members and their presence of mind helped ensure the safety of the neighbourhood and occupants of the home,” the release states. “Although there is now a family displaced for the Christmas seas, the rapid response and effective actions of the Tofino Volunteer Fire Department helped prevent the spread of the fire and further loss of property.”
Local Red Cross volunteer Britt Chalmers is helping to coordinate volunteers who are collecting donations for the displaced locals.
“The response has been incredibly overwhelming and generous,” Chalmers said.
She said cash donations to accounts set up at both the Tofino Co-op and Coastal Community Credit Union are the best method of support right now. Locals are also encouraged to donate books and other gifts to help make the nine-year-old’s Christmas special.
Chalmers said the family has accommodation worked out until Dec. 15, but will need somewhere to stay after that.
“In a disaster there tends to be an immediate outpouring of help, but it will be longer term where they’re really going to need the support from town,” she said adding the tenant’s needs are still being assessed.