‘Suspicious’ fire displaces 20 Nanaimo residents at condo building

WATCH: Nanaimo firefighters responded to a dumpster fire on Prideaux Street early Saturday morning that spread to the neighbouring building.

An early morning fire at a condo building in Nanaimo, B.C., has displaced 20 residents.

The fire started in a dumpster around 7 a.m. on Saturday, which was close to the building on Prideaux Street. It has been deemed suspicious by Nanaimo Fire Rescue.

Some of the fire was caught on video, showing a unit completely engulfed in flames.

“When crews arrived they quickly recognized it was more significant than a dumpster fire,” Fire Chief Tim Doyle said, with Nanaimo Fire Rescue.

“Unfortunately, there were multiple units directly above the fire that were impacted as well as other units, water- and smoke-damaged.”

While RCMP said it is investigating the fire, it declined to comment. Nanaimo Fire Rescue, however, said there were reports of unhoused individuals near the fire at the time of ignition.

“Suspicious fires are an issue, they endanger inhabitants in buildings like this. This happened during a time of day that luckily people were able to get out safe,” Doyle said.

“(Fires) like this are very dangerous.” It is unclear what started the fire at this time.

All but one of the residents in the building have insurance, Doyle said. The resident who doesn’t is being supported by Emergency Support Services.

The Nanaimo Area Public Safety Association, which has held many community rallies raising the issue of crimes in their neighbourhood, said this fire is just the latest example of what they perceive as dangerous activities in the city.

“We are seeing way too many fires … (We believe) it’s because of mentally ill and drug-addicted people that really need complex care facilities,” Kevan Shaw said, the association’s communication director.

“We are asking the provincial and federal governments to repeal their decriminalization because the pilot project is not working.”

However, a Nanaimo Area Network of Drug Users (NANDU) spokesperson said its too easy to blame the unhoused.

“I think it’s really unfair the homeless community gets blamed for so much,” Sara Edmondson said, a NANDU outreach coordinator.

Edmondson said when they had a harm reduction drug consumption site, the site got blamed for a lot of issues. That facility got closed last February.

“Now that (the facility) is not there, the homeless community and the drug using population is out in the city more … they are getting blamed for basically everything bad that happens.”

Edmondson said those suffering from mental health, addiction and housing issues should not be painted with a wide brush, and instead of pointing fingers the community needs to work together and extend a helping hand to address these issues.

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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