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Blaze displaces nine tenants

NANAIMO – Nine people lost their possessions and the roof over their heads in an early morning house fire Sunday.

Nine people lost their possessions and the roof over their heads in an early morning house fire Sunday.

Fire crews were called to a rental house in the 400 block of Machleary Street at about 3:15 a.m. to find the upper floor engulfed in flames.

Craig Richardson, deputy chief of operations with Nanaimo Fire Rescue, said dispatch received a number of calls about the fire and the first calls placed the fire at an address on Kennedy Street.

Crews arrived on scene in six minutes and 17 seconds.

“Even despite the mixup, we were still very close to our target,” said Richardson, adding that firefighters remained on scene for more than seven hours.

Ennis Mond, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer, said between the two rental suites on the ground floor and the suite upstairs, nine people lived in the house and all – 11 in total because one of the downstairs tenants also had two friends over – got out safely.

Four went to hospital to be treated for minor smoke inhalation and it is believed that two dogs living in the upper suite died.

The scene was chaotic that morning because a party was in full swing in the house directly across the alley and people dispersed in the direction of the burning house.

“There was lots of confusion over who was who,” said Mond.

He said the house is likely a writeoff.

“The top floor and roof basically burned off it and the basement suites received heavy-duty water damage and some smoke damage,” said Mond, adding that the owner of the house, who is working in northern B.C., had insurance, but the tenants didn’t.

He was unable to determine the cause of the blaze by press time Monday because the top floor of the house, where he believes the fire started, is no longer structurally sound.

“We can’t get up there, it’s unsafe,” said Mond.

Karen Lindsay, Nanaimo Emergency Services coordinator, said all nine tenants, one of which is an infant, received 72 hours’ food and lodging under the community assistance program and will have to look to family, friends and community agencies for help – nothing can be recovered from the residence.

The two neighbouring homes were initially evacuated and one of them has some minor damage to the siding as well as some water damage, she said.