(Port Alberni RCMP)

An investigation is now underway after a blaze ripped through a Port Alberni two-unit residence early Monday morning, leaving a man in his 60s dead.

Just after midnight, Port Alberni RCMP was called to the structure fire in the 4800-block of Ian Avenue near Johnson Road, with officers arriving to find local fire crews already working to mitigate the flames.

“Our duty crew arrived on scene and found heavy fire showing from the front of the building, and bystander reports of a man down in the backyard,” Port Alberni Fire Chief Mike Owens told Victoria Buzz.

People walking by stopped and helped the two tenants escape, assisting them in fleeing the fire before first responders arrived.

“It looks like they attempted to exit out the front but found that there was too much fire involvement,” said Owens, “so they exited out the back—hence why the gentleman was in the backyard when we arrived on scene.”

While some firefighters started dousing the fire and searching to see if anybody was trapped inside, Owens says others administered first aid while attempting to resuscitate the man.

However, despite efforts, he died at the scene.

“This is an absolutely tragic event that has ended in the worst way. Our thoughts are with the family of the deceased,” said RCMP Cst. Richard John, as he commended the passersby for their courageous actions.

Johns says the BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the unexpected death but notes that the man’s name won’t be released out of privacy.

At this time, initial police and fire department investigations haven’t led officials to believe the fire was criminal.

“Certainly, on the interior of the structure, there was heavy fire and smoke damage throughout the building,” said Owens.

“I believe initial knockdown happened at approximately the 10-minute mark, but there was quite a bit of fire that made its way into some void areas. Crews remained on scene for several hours just overhauling and ensuring there was no additional fire spread.”

Owens adds that the Beaver Creek, Cherry Creek and Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Departments were also called to help.

Fire destroys Port Alberni home less than a week prior:

Today’s blaze came after last Tuesday’s house fire in the 3700-block of Redford Street closed off the surrounding roadway, detouring traffic in the area.

“There was one occupant who was in the building at the time of the fire,” added Owens, noting the fire was later deemed accidental.

“That individual was able to get himself out of the building, but there was extensive fire damage throughout the structure on all three floors.”

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