Deadly Victoria blaze caused by hookah pipe: fire chief

A hookah pipe caused a fire that claimed the lives of two young women in Victoria in the early morning of Aug. 6, Victoria fire Chief Doug Angrove says.

Ahookah pipe caused a fire that claimed the lives of two young women in Victoria in the early morning of Aug. 6, Victoria's fire chief says.

Fire Chief Doug Angrove said an investigation has concluded the group of university students had been smoking tobacco from the water pipe on the evening of Aug. 5.

Some time after midnight, the hookah pipe tipped over and a smouldering charcoal ember fell onto a couch, Angrove said.

That led to a fire so intense that it peeled aluminum siding off the duplex.

Chelsea Elizabeth Robinson, 22, and Brenna Jacklyn Innes, 21, died from smoke inhalation when the two-story duplex caught fire while they were sleeping.

Victoria's fire chief says smoking a hookah pipe has become popular among young urbanites.
Angrove said smoking tobacco from a hookah pipe has become a popular pastime among young urbanites.

"This is the first fire I am aware of as a result of these pipes," said Angrove. "It is something we haven't come across before and this was a terrible way to learn more about them."

Angrove said he's concerned the unstable design of many hookah pipes could lead to other fires.

"Upon further investigation into the unstable design of the pipe, the slow- and long-burning characteristics of the charcoal and the growing popularity, we are extremely concerned about the fire potential here."

Although there was a smoke alarm in the duplex, it appears it was not working at the time of the fire, said Angrove.

The fire broke out inthe duplex in the 800 block of Villance Street in the northwest of the city at about 4:30 a.m. PT Aug. 6. By the time fire crews arrived, half of the duplex was engulfed in flames.

The two women who died,students from the University of Victoria, were visiting other university students atthe duplex. One was found on the ground floor, the other in an upstairs bathroom.

Three young men escaped by jumping out of windows. Two others were badly burned.