Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews put out a bush fire along the banks of the Millstone River on Thursday night. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Crews called to bush fires at Nanaimo’s Barsby Park

Investigation into two suspicious fires on Millston River turned over to police

An investigation into two fires at homeless camps in Nanaimo has been turned over to police.

Firefighters put out bush fires that broke out in two different places along the banks of the Millstone River on Thursday.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue was called out at about 9 p.m. to Barsby Park and according to crews on scene, found two different fires along the northern bank. One crew fought one of the fires from across the river on the Barsby Avenue side, while another crew extinguished a fire further up the hill, close to Caledonia Avenue.

Crews said it wasn’t just trees on fire, also garbage and possibly a tent. The fires were each about 12 metres by 12 metres in area and were spaced about 60 metres apart.

Firefighters brought the flames under control to prevent the fires from spreading, and ultimately snuffed out both fires.

Alan Millbank, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer, said both fires were “related to homelessness” but determining how the fires started is proving difficult.

“One camp was completely burnt and the other one just missed getting burnt,” Millbank said.

Millbank listed off a number of possibilities for how the fires could have started, all of which ranged from accidental to suspicious, but fire investigators, through scene investigation and witness interviews, have been unable to prove what, or who might have started them.

“That’s why we’re calling it ‘undetermined,’” Millbank said.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue turned the investigation over to the RCMP.

“We got a call last night about 9:30,” said Sgt. Jon Stuart, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman. “Our guys went down there and, yeah, there was some fires and there was a person that they spoke to, but trying to prove anything is going to be more than difficult. You can’t prove that the person that was there is responsible.”

Stuart said the RCMP is considering the investigation closed unless some new evidence leading to a definite cause, or a suspect comes to light.

“The cause is suspicious … but it falls back to the fire department for anything that they may have, but we don’t have enough to proceed with anything,” Stuart said.

Millbank said there have been a number of fires in parks and undeveloped areas already in April, especially over the Easter long weekend. Not all can be attributed to homelessness.

“Some of that’s attributable to kids being out of school,” he said. “There’s always an uptick when kids are out of school.”

Millbank said conditions are already dry enough for fires to start easily and people should be wary of possible ignition sources, such as cigarette butts.

“You get those howling northwesters (winds) and they feed the cherry on the cigarettes in the grass and away they go,” Millbank said.



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo bluesman David Gogo releases his new single, Christine, on Oct. 30. (Photo courtesy Andrew Dodd)
Nanaimo bluesman David Gogo evokes return to good times with new single

Upcoming release ‘Christine’ among a dozen new songs written during pandemic

Premier John Horgan heads to his ride following his announcement that there will be a fall election as he speaks during a press conference in Langford in September. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)
Editorial: Majority needs to work for all British Columbians

Concepts of co-operation change as we go from an NDP minority to a majority

Nanaimo RCMP are looking for a suspect who rammed a police car to escape an arrest attempt. (File photo)
Drug trafficking suspect rams police vehicle in Nanaimo and escapes arrest

Suspect still at large after fleeing from police in Harewood on Friday afternoon

Dr. Richard Stanwick, Island Health chief medical health officer, immunizes Victoria Schmid, Island Health’s vice-president of pandemic planning. (Submitted photo)
Island Health advising people to get a flu shot

People looking to get vaccinated should book an appointment, says Island Health

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

RCMP have released more details regarding what led up to an arrest caught on video in Williams Lake Sunday, Oct. 26. (Facebook video screenshot)
Review launched after ‘high-risk, multi-jurisdictional’ chase, arrest in Williams Lake

RCMP launching a full review and code of conduct investigation

Freighter drags anchor towards Boulder Point Oct. 22. It came within 730 metres of the shore, according to maps from the Port of Nanaimo. (Photo submitted)
MacGregor introduces bill to address freighter anchorages along the South Coast

Concerns about the environment, noise, pollution and safety abundant

(Pxfuel)
B.C. limits events in private homes to household, plus ‘safe six’ amid COVID-19 surge

Henry issued a public health order limiting private gatherings to one household, plus a group of ‘safe six’ only

B.C. Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson speaks during a drive-in car rally campaign stop at a tour bus operator, in Delta, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Andrew Wilkinson stepping down as B.C. Liberal leader

Will stay on until the next party leader is chosen

Harvesters participating in the extended commercial halibut season will need to land their catch in either Prince Rupert (pictured), Vancouver, or Port Hardy by Dec. 14. (File photo)
B.C.’s commercial halibut season extended three weeks

COVID-19 market disruptions at the root of DFO’s decision

Campbell River's new hospital, July 2018
Nurse diverts opiates and falsifies records at Campbell River Hospital

Nurse facing disciplinary action for moving opiates out of the hospital

VicPD and B.C. Conservation Officer Service teamed up to free two bucks who were entangled in a fishing net and dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them. (VicPD)
VIDEO: Police, B.C. Conservation help two bucks caught in one fishing net

Bucks were also dragging a wheelbarrow sized piece of driftwood behind them

Most Read