The Friday fire that left vacant and boarded-up Pioneer Square Mall in Mill Bay ravaged by flames remains under investigation, according to police.
“The fire is believed to be suspicious,” BC RCMP Sgt. Chris Manseau told Victoria Buzz, noting investigators are on scene today combing through the rubble.
At 12:25 p.m. on May 27th, Mill Bay Fire Rescue was paged to the mall, located at the corner of Shawnigan Lake-Mill Bay Road and the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH), for a report of a structure fire.
Because the mall was fully engulfed in flames, it prompted Mill Bay Fire’s deputy chief Stephen Melanson to call in reinforcements and request mutual aid from six other fire departments.
In all, nearly 50 firefighters responded to the fire, and it took crews about nine hours to complete overhaul operations, according to Mill Bay Fire.
“Firefighters established a defensive attack and dumped thousands of gallons of water trying to gain control,” the department said.
But fire officials find it’s a fire “many people were anticipating” given Pioneer Square’s history—within the past six months, they’ve responded to two blazes at the mall in February and in November.
“We know that the building was uninhabited, and there wasn’t any power. I think it was closed up for about a year now,” added Manseau.
As firefighters battled the flames, parking several fire trucks on the TCH, the major route was shuttered to north and southbound traffic for hours, ushering in detours and significant delays for commuters.
Amid the traffic gridlock, people took to social media, urging others to avoid the area while posting footage of the fire as grey smoke billowed into the skies above.
By 6:15 p.m., Drive BC said northbound TCH lanes at Shawnigan Lake-Mill Bay Road had reopened, with southbound lanes reopening around 6:30 p.m.