British Columbia

Victoria police say Plaza Hotel fire was arson, caretaker still missing

Victoria police are hoping someone knows where the Plaza Hotel's caretaker is after an investigation points to arson as the cause of the May fire that razed the historic building.

Historic, vacant building burned to the ground on May 6; search for caretaker followed

Victoria police are looking for the Plaza Hotel caretaker Mike Draeger in connection to a fire it is now calling an arson. The hotel was destroyed on May 6, 2019. (Victoria Police)

Victoria police are asking the public to keep an eye out for a man in connection with the fire that destroyed the city's historic Plaza Hotel last month.

The Major Crime Unit says its investigation is now focusing on the whereabouts of the caretaker, Mike Draeger, after forensics determined the fire at 603 Pandora Avenue on May 6 was arson.

The building had been shut down and mostly vacant for years. The caretaker couldn't be found following the fire and remains unaccounted for. There were no indications he was in the building at the time of the fire.

Crews battled the blaze from about 5:30 a.m. that day. Smoke billowing from the four-storey building blanketed Victoria's downtown core throughout the day and created a cloud visible from as far as Port Angeles, Wash., across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

The old Victoria Plaza Hotel building, which had been shut down for years, burned for hours after a fire started in the basement the morning of May 6. (Megan Thomas/CBC)
Roads were closed, nearby buildings were evacuated and city hall was shut down for the entire day.
Draeger is seen here without a beard. (Victoria Police)

Victoria fire Chief Paul Bruce said Draeger was known to sometimes stay in the building. 

Police are now releasing photos of him, with and without his beard, to aid their investigation.

Anyone with information about the fire or Draeger's whereabouts is asked to call the police non-emergency line at (250) 995-7654 or Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.