As VicPD’s Major Crime Unit continues to investigate the massive downtown Plaza Hotel fire that gutted the heritage building in May, they have now confirmed that the blaze was a result of arson.
On May 6th, a devastating fire broke out at the historic Plaza Hotel building located at 603 Pandora Avenue.
The large fire took days for firefighters to extinguish and caused significant smoke damage to nearby properties, prompting the City of Victoria to issue an air quality warning and forcing some businesses to close their doors for several days – some for much longer.
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While investigators have confirmed that the cause of the fire is arson, police say they are not releasing further details at this time to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.
One person remains missing
Nearly two months after the building’s destruction, police are still searching for the its caretaker, Mike Draeger, who has not been seen since the fire took place.
Police say that he was not located after a thorough search of the debris and remains unaccounted for.
VicPD are still searching for Draeger at this time and have released a new photo of the caretaker which shows him clean shaven, unlike previously released images.
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According to Draeger’s former coworker Wayne Kalnciems, the caretaker was approximately 60-years-old, weighed between 180 and 200 lbs, stood roughly 6 feet tall, and had short grey hair.
“He was a pretty private person,” Kalnciems told Victoria Buzz back on May 15th.
“He pretty much kept to himself a lot of the time. I wouldn’t say he didn’t have any friends but he was a pretty private person.”
Mike Draeger was a maintenance worker/handyman at the century-old establishment, and once the bar shut down in 2013, he assumed the role of caretaker.
A trailer that reportedly belonged to him was located behind the building, and a van was parked out front, but there were no signs of anyone being in those vehicles.
Earlier in June, Victoria City Council approved the demolition of the remainder of the Plaza Hotel structure.
The council issued a Heritage Alteration Permit to the building’s owners, which allow them to replace the historic structure with a new building so long as it includes elements of the original hotel, like two round polished granite columns that flanked the original entry.
Initial designs for the site are expected to be presented to council in fall 2019.
With files from Brishti Basu