Six men are gathering what possessions they have left and searching for new homes after fire destroyed their rooming house Thursday.
The blaze broke out shortly after 12:30 a.m. in the rear section of the 108-year-old house at 215 Nicol St., worked its way into a back wall and up into the attic and destroyed the roof of the two-storey structure, said Alan Millbank, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer.
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“I was sleeping, some guy smashed my window and told me there was a fire and here we are,” said resident Alex D. “That fire was going up and then it spread out and then it went up into the roof.”
Ahmed Hassan was one of the last residents out of the house, awakened by neighbours yelling and banging on doors. He thinks much of his belongings can be saved, but wishes he had grabbed a few things before rushing out.
“I had time, but I just panicked and I was half asleep,” Hassan said.
The last resident to escape was helped out of the house by an RCMP officer. He was taken to hospital, treated for minor smoke inhalation and released.
“The RCMP happened to be driving by at the time and saw people gathered out front who told him there was someone still in the building,” Millbank said. “He went in and pulled that person out.”
Sgt. Sheryl Armstrong, Nanaimo RCMP spokeswoman, said officers who attended the fire reported all residents were out of the house when they arrived.
Firefighters fought the blaze until 4:30 a.m.
Brian Grosseth, who has owned the house since 2004 but does not reside there, said he was refused an insurance policy because of an alleged structural defect with the front porch. He will wait for a damage assessment before deciding whether or not to salvage the building.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Grosseth said. “It’s so awful you can’t believe it.”
Clayton Carson had just left a concert at The Queen’s Hotel when he received word of the fire. Few of his possessions are salvageable.
“I went and got the only three things that I was able to get my hands on: my money, my bong and my weed,” Carson said. “And none of it was water damaged because it was in a big-assed Ziploc bag and a plastic tobacco container. Dude, my laptop was covered in roof. My whole living room is covered in roof.”
All six residents were given 72-hours’ lodging and other assistance through Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s Community Assistance Program.
None of the residents were insured and the investigation into the cause of the fire continues.