Bystanders watch and snap photos Thursday morning as firefighers prepare to drench hot spots in the commercial block destroyed by a blaze Wednesday night.

Electrical malfunction caused downtown Nanaimo fire

NANAIMO – Fire investigators conclude fire in Jean Burns Building caused by overheated bathroom fan.

Fire investigators have determined an electrical malfunction sparked the fire that destroyed the Jean Burns Building at 10 Commercial St. in downtown Nanaimo.

The fire, which started March 30 and burned for about 14 hours before it was finally brought under control, started near the centre of the building in a void space between the building’s first and second floors.

Four fire investigators, who spent several days collecting physical evidence, interviewing witnesses and analyzing results of information gathered, do not believe a power disruption on the afternoon of the fire was a contributing factor and have classified the blaze as accidental.

“It was a bathroom fan malfunction,” said Capt. Ennis Mond, Nanaimo Fire Rescue chief fire prevention officer. “It overheated and that’s what started the fire.”

Rick Hyne, operating officer for building owner Crankshaw Holdings, said it will be about another six weeks before a decision can be made whether the building will be rebuilt.

“Currently we’re going through an insurance process that’s going to involve an assessment of the building to determine if it should be rebuilt or repaired,” Hyne said. “We won’t know that for about six weeks.”

Hyne said if the cost of rebuilding is more than the company is insured for “then we’ll have to come up with a different answer to the question.”

In the meantime, an engineer is determining if the walls of the building are safe or if they need to be shored up to prevent possible collapse. Hyne said that will likely be done and the China Steps and Lois lane reopened by the end of the week.

“As soon as the engineer signs off and there’s a plan put in place,” Hyne said.

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