Five people were forced from their home by a fire in a rented Nicol Street house Thursday.
Ennis Mond, fire investigator with Nanaimo Fire Rescue, said the fire started in a bedroom on the main floor of the house, where a middle-aged man and woman resided, and it was caused by smoking materials.
Investigators found crack pipes, hypodermic needles and other drug paraphernalia in the main suite, he added.
“Some type of smoking material started the mattress on fire,” said Mond.
The occupants tried to put the fire out themselves at first, he said, using ice cream buckets of water and then a garden hose, before calling the fire department around 8 a.m.
The pair were taken to hospital for treatment for minor smoke inhalation.
The fire destroyed the bedroom and there is fire, heat and smoke damage throughout the upper floor and water damage to the basement suite, where a mother, her daughter and son-in-law were living, said Mond.
The downstairs tenants were not home at the time of the fire and some of the possessions in the basement suite are salvageable.
Only the owner of the building had insurance and the five renters are being helped through the city’s Emergency Social Services program.
Mond said the house is not habitable and it will be up to the owner and the insurance company to determine if it will be torn down or restored.