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Video: Fire sends three Nanaimo Mounties to hospital

Three Nanaimo RCMP members were sent to hospital for smoke inhalation after a fire broke out at an apartment complex in Harewood.

Police and firefighters responded at about 3 a.m. Wednesday after a derelict car caught fire next to an apartment block in the Willow Grove Estates apartment complex located on the 500 block of Sixth Street.

Residents said they heard two loud bangs and saw flames climbing up the side of the wall of one of the complex’s the three-storey apartment blocks.

“I heard two distinct bangs, about three, four minutes apart and looked out my balcony to see flames up above the third story,” said Ken Griswold, a resident of the complex. “Wow. What a wake-up call.”

Griswold said the fire department was on scene moments later, but not before the blaze burned up the outer siding of the structure and had penetrated the into its attic.

Linda Buchanan and Sebastian Legge live in the third-floor apartment above where the fire ignited.

“At three in the morning, I heard a bang and then another bang and all of a sudden fire just went up the tree and then it went up the side of the building,” Buchanan said.

About 40 residents from the apartment block sheltered against the –6 C temperature in the complex’s common room until they could return to their suites.

“We got dressed and left the building … a person needed to be carried out because of wheelchairs and stuff like that,” Legge said.

Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, confirmed one elderly resident was carried out by RCMP members who suffered smoke inhalation while going through the structure to ensure everyone was evacuating.

“Three officers were taken to hospital, two were released after assessment and one remained for several hours and has since been released,” O’Brien said. “They went into the building to make sure all the occupants were leaving. They found an elderly male who had trouble walking. They carried him out of the building and in doing so they suffered some smoke inhalation.”

Legge and Buchanan said their suite and much of the building suffered smoke damage and a stairwell below their apartment suffered fire, smoke and water damage.

Investigators are continuing to probe the cause of the fire which appears to have started in a car that belongs to one of the tenants. It had been parked next to the building for at least one month, according to residents.

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