Firework blamed as fire tears through East Vancouver home

About 40 firefighters were called after a Vancouver home caught fire Thursday night, and the homeowner who fled the burning house is blaming illegal fireworks.

The homeowner says people were lighting firecrackers and Roman candles outside, then fire broke out

A Captain with Vancouver Fire and Rescue peers out a top floor window to see if flames are still creeping through the wall, Thursday night. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

About 12 trucks and 40 firefighters were called after a Vancouver home caught fire Thursday night, and the homeowner who fled the burning house is blaming illegal fireworks.

The second alarm fire broke out in the 105-year-old house on the corner of E 10th Avenue and Woodland Drive sometime after 10 p.m.

Bruce Mitchell, who has owned the house with his sister since 1986, was watching television when he heard people lighting firecrackers outside.

"There was, all of a sudden, a bright orange light, and I went to the front of the house and I realized there were flames leaping up in front of my house from the porch," said Mitchell, who said he saw the flare-like glow of Roman candle fireworks.

In the City of Vancouver, Roman candles are not permitted, and no fireworks are allowed to be lit before or after Oct. 31 without a special permit.

Mitchell said he tried to flee the house out the front door, but he was thwarted by the flames. 

 "I just ran to the back of the house, and I was up on the balcony there," he said.

A Vancouver Fire and Rescue member speaks with a neighbour, as crews begin cleaning up after a second-alarm fire tore through an East Van home, Thursday night. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Battalion Chief Dan Christie with Vancouver Fire and Rescue said crews found Mitchell stranded on the balcony when they arrived.

"I think he was just disoriented. When the guys got on scene, right away they just took him to safety," said Christie. "He was quite agitated when I got on scene and spoke to him."

'It was pretty spectacular'

Mitchell escaped the burning house barefoot, with nothing more than his cellphone and the shorts he was wearing.

Firefighters then turned their attention to the flames that were quickly tearing through the two-and-a-half-storey house.

"Oh, it was rolling. Especially out on this south side, it was coming out those windows quite good. Yeah, it was pretty spectacular," said Chrisitie, who added that flames were spitting more than three metres out the windows.

Crews stand by, after extinguishing a fire that caused extensive damage to a 105-year-old home near Commercial Drive in Vancouver. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Mitchell said his two indoor cats, a Burmese named Ezra and a Siamese named Simon, were unaccounted for after the fire.

"My two cats, I don't know what's happened to them," he said. "Hopefully they've escaped." 

Christie said the house would not have to be torn down, but it would be a while before Mitchell, his sister, and a downstairs tenant would be able to return home.

"It was going pretty good, so I imagine it'll be a mess. You couldn't live in there, that's for sure."

The Vancouver Fire and Rescue investigator and an arson investigator with the Vancouver Police Department are handling the case.


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