Firefighters regroup to cool down and swap air tanks after their initial attack on a house fire in the 1600 block of Sherwood Drive on Wednesday. Thick black smoke in the building made it difficult to find the source of the fire. The cause is under investigation. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Faulty wiring caused Sherwood Drive fire

Nanaimo Fire Rescue determines cause of fire after couple got safely out of smoke-filled house

A Nanaimo couple is safe, but temporarily displaced from their home after it filled with thick black smoke Wednesday.

The incident happened shortly after 12:30 p.m. while homeowners Leona and John Keltie were in the kitchen of their home in the 1600 block of Sherwood Drive.

Leona said she was preparing dinner when the house started to fill with heavy black smoke that appeared to be coming from the basement. She got out of the house while John ran downstairs to shut off the main power to the house, although neither of them knew what the source of the smoke was at the time.

“Just thick black smoke. I went underneath it. I had to get to the power. It’s in the back corner [of the house], so I just went in there, threw the switch and came back up,” John said.

He suffered minor smoke inhalation, but otherwise no one was injured. A couple that was staying at the house was not home at the time of the fire and a dog also escaped unhurt.

Firefighters had a difficult time discovering the source of the fire that created the smoke, which appeared to originate in the basement.

The alarm was called in by neighbours and a roofing crew working on a house across the street who saw smoke coming out of the Kelties’ home. Neighbours said they experienced a temporary loss of electricity just prior to the incident.

Capt. Geoff Whiting, Nanaimo Fire Rescue scene commander, said there was heavy smoke showing from the house when firefighters arrived.

“It took us a bit to find it because of the heavy smoke in the house … There’s significant fire damage to the lower level and smoke damage throughout the entire house,” Whiting said. “We found the source, where it’s located, but the cause is still under investigation.”

Alan Millbank, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer who investigated the fire, said the fire was sparked by an electrical wiring malfunction in a workshop.

“It was an oxygen-deprived fire, so it burned for quite a while in the house and they were in it when it was burning,” Millbank said. “They didn’t realize it was burning until smoke started coming up the staircase. [John] went down and realized it smelled electrical, tripped the electrical breaker off for the main service and called the fire department.”

Millbank confirmed there is heavy fire damage in the home’s workshop plus water damage and smoke damage throughout the house.
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Leona and John Keltie speak with Alan Millbank, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer. The couple had to flee their home when it suddenly filled with smoke Wednesday afternoon. CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

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