Smoking cited as cause of townhouse fire

A blaze that heavily damaged a townhouse block, left nine people temporarily homeless and sent one man to hospital for smoke inhalation, is the third fire of 2013 caused by careless smoking. The fire broke out at about 6 a.m. Monday at Madrona Village townhouse complex at 25 Pryde Ave.

Ennis Mond, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer, said investigators inspected the building and conducted interviews Monday, and determined the fire was started by a cigarette smouldering in a living room couch the man who was taken to hospital had fallen asleep on.

Mond said a couple who were guests staying in the townhouse next door were alerted when they heard banging noises.

“He looked out the back sliding glass door and saw a big red glow,” Mond said.

The couple managed to get everyone up and out of the townhouse and then alerted residents in other units.

The man from the townhouse the fire started in was discovered standing disoriented in his front doorway by his neighbours.

“He walks out, turns around and stands in the smoke and looks back in the house,” Mond said.

He was released from hospital Monday afternoon. Neither he or the owner of the townhouse had fire insurance. The owners of three of the townhouses had fire insurance, but two sets of tenants did not. Madrona Village strata is insured, Mond said.

A fire in a condominium on Wills Road Jan. 5 and a fire in a rental house on Brechin Road Jan. 23 were also started by careless smoking.

There were no working smoke alarms in the Brechin Road house. Only one tenant claimed to have a working smoke alarm in Monday’s fire.

Because of careless smoking and the frequency with which he finds no working smoke alarms, Mond said it is only a matter of time before someone in Nanaimo dies in a fire.

“It’s only a matter of time before we have a fatality in a house,” Mond said. “I can feel it coming. We are going to have a fatality if people don’t smarten up.”

Mond is stressing once again that homeowners, landlords and tenants make sure residences have working smoke alarms on each level of a home. Battery operated smoke alarms should have their batteries changed at least once a year and be tested annually.

Smoke alarms powered by a home’s electrical system must also be tested and cleaned regularly by simply passing a vacuum cleaner wand around the smoke detector’s vents to suck out dust and small bugs that can trigger false alarms or cause the devices to malfunction. Smoke alarms have a limited life span and should be replaced every 10 years.

“If you pull the cover off of them there’s a manufacturing date,” Mond said. “Every 10 years you should be swapping those out.”

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