Fire officials are investigating the cause of a south Vancouver blaze Wednesday evening that damaged three residential buildings, created a giant plume of black smoke visible from as far away as the North Shore, and forced the evacuation of more than 10 people.
The three-alarm fire started sometime around 5 p.m., the city's fire department said, near 64th Avenue and Columbia Street.
The fire started in a garage attached to a house in the residential area, which soon spread to a second residence, said the acting assistant chief of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services.
The garage was "fully engulfed" in flame when firefighters arrived, and had spread to nearby residences.
"When the crews came on scene, they had essentially two fires going," Walter Pereira said in a phone interview Wednesday night.
Forty-eight members of the fire department responded, he said, and helped evacuate nine people in the house where the fire started, in addition to two seniors from a neighbouring house. A nearby apartment building saw minor damage, Pereira added.
"Extensive damage to the first house, and a fair amount of damage to the other house," he said.
Witnesses reported on social media they heard sharp sounds from the blaze.
"It sounded like loud pops, not as loud as gunshots but similar in how it sounded," said neighbour Jason Mireau, who had to evacuate his home for more than three hours during the fire. "There was some hissing as well."
Pereira said those sounds have not been yet explained but are under investigation. He said suggestions online of possible fireworks in the house are not substantiated.
"There were some pops and some small explosions, so we're going to try to determine what caused those things," he said. "Investigators are on scene trying to determine the cause of the fire."
No civilians or firefighters were injured, he said.