A 120-year-old house in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood has burned to the ground, damaging two other properties and forcing several residents out of their homes.
Vancouver firefighters responded to the blaze at 743 Keefer Street, between Heatley and Hawks Avenues, at around 4:30 a.m. to find flames and heavy smoke billowing out of the house.
Next-door neighbour Janos Sitar and his wife were woken up by two loud pops and a flash. They called 911. “You ever seen a transformer explode? That makes a popping sound, and it was two of those, very loudly,” he said.
They ran outside with their daughter and cat and watched in alarm as the fire licked dangerously close before spreading to their home, a relatively modern house built in 1974.
“As I saw the glass in my daughter’s bedroom fall out onto the ground, I saw her curtains billowing fire,” he said. “I ran in, basically started bucketing water to put that out.”
Sitar also ran downstairs to grab his laptop from the office. “By the time I got there, the glass from my office window had shattered and the frame was catching fire.”
The blaze also spread to the house on the other side, leaving it badly damaged.
“I was shocked that the side of that building was in flames, way faster than ours,” said Sitar. “That building, the entire wall was on fire. It was mind-boggling.”
One resident shared on social media that they heard a loud explosion that woke up much of the neighbourhood.
About 44 firefighters and 12 fire trucks tackled the fire at its height. Fire crews fought the three-alarm blaze from inside and tried to prevent it from spreading even further.
Many houses in Strathcona are on narrow, 25-foot wide lots that doesn’t leave much room between houses.
Vancouver Fire said no injuries were reported, thanks to neighbours calling 911 enabling crews to get on scene early, working smoke alarms inside the homes, and the quick evacuation of adjacent residents.
Ten people were displaced. One cat was rescued from one of the homes. But the properties sustained significant property damage.
Sitos believes his roof is toast, and is unclear about the extent of the damage on the other floors. The house on the other side had its roof badly damaged, windows blown out, and the eastern facade burnt and charred.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, said Vancouver Fire and Rescue spokesman Capt. Matthew Trudeau.
The house at 743 Keefer Street dates back to 1901 and was undergoing renovations. A sign outside indicates it had previously received a Heritage Conservation Grant from the Vancouver Heritage Foundation.
Vancouver Councillor Pete Fry lives a couple of blocks away from the fire and said there was a couple of propane tanks on site that went up and accelerated the fire.
“This is the kind of stuff that Strathcona nightmares are made of, because the houses around here are so close together,” he said.
The house that went up in flames also had exposed timbres because its drywall was down as part of the renovation, added Fry. That likely caused the fire to spread even more rapidly.
Fry said at least four households have been displaced.
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