Hoarder house fire considered suspicious in Vancouver

A suspicious fire significantly damaged a Vancouver home Friday night, and a fire official said the house was filled with hoarder's junk and appears to have been used by squatters.

Officials say house was used by squatters, and 'angry raccoon' seen escaping flames

Vancouver firefighters were called to a fire on Arbutus Street late Friday night. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

A suspicious fire significantly damaged a Vancouver home on Friday night. A fire official said the house appears to have been used by squatters and was filled with hoarder's junk.

The fire started shortly after 11 p.m. on Arbutus Street near W 18th Avenue.

Natalie Gibbs was walking home from work when something caught her eye across the street.

"I saw that the window looked lit up in an unusual way," said Gibbs.

"Once I smelled [it], and got closer, I knew that for sure, [the] house was on fire."

Flames could be seen through the bushes in front of the house. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Gibbs didn't have a phone, so she rushed to a neighbour's house and got them to call 911.

"I was very surprised," said Gibbs. "The room was, like, bright orange and at first it seemed like someone was moving in there, but then … I got closer and realized no, this is actually the flames flickering and moving around."

Acting Battalion Chief Jim Booth with Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services said firefighters arrived to find significant flames burning through the house's front room.

Firefighters had to force their way through plywood that was used to board up the house. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Crews trying to put out the flames were slowed by the boarded-up door and piles of garbage in the house.

"They had to go through knee-deep garbage to get to where they were going, and primary search and secondary of the building found the whole building was full of garbage," said Booth.

"What I saw in the basement [was] lots of boxes, paper, some mattresses. Possibly somebody might have been living in there, squatters."

Booth said nobody was found inside the house, but an "angry raccoon" was seen escaping the fire. 

"I was told there was a raccoon that came out and didn't look very happy that it had been disturbed," he said.

Booth said hoarder's junk can create a serious hazard for firefighters in a case like this.

"If there's smoke, they can't see what's on the floor … If they catch their feet, they'll fall over. If one falls over, everybody falls," he said.

Booth said a member of the Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service would investigate the cause of the suspicious fire along with the Vancouver Police Department. 

Smoke billows out of a house after Vancouver firefighters put out the flames on Friday night. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)


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