Firefighters battle a structure fire at a property on Spruston Road in Cassidy on Wednesday night. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

UPDATE: Cause of fire at hoarders’ house ‘suspicious and undetermined’

Regional District of Nanaimo had recently directed a cleanup of ‘unsightly’ property

A hoarders’ house in Cassidy burned down last night.

An abandoned home on Spruston Road was destroyed by a blaze that broke out just before 10:50 p.m. on Wednesday.

Cranberry Volunteer Fire Department crews found a fully involved structure fire when they arrived on scene, and North Cedar Fire Department was called to provide assistance.

Neighbours said the property had been recently cleaned up at the direction of the Regional District of Nanaimo.

“They told me that it was basically a hoarder house and it was also deemed uninhabitable,” said Ron Gueulette, Cranberry fire chief. “And it was a no-go for firefighters because it was dangerous.”

He said if the yard hadn’t had its recent cleanup, firefighters wouldn’t have even gone on the property. As it was, crews focused on a defensive exterior attack, knocked down the fire to keep it from spreading but then basically just let the structure burn.

“Just imagine a house that’s jam-packed full from floor to ceiling of who knows what. It’s just too dangerous to get around there…” the fire chief said. “You don’t risk your guys when you’re not going to save anything that’s worthwhile. It was already deemed a derelict building and had to come down anyway.”

He said considering that there was no electricity servicing the property, he’s deemed the fire “suspicious and undetermined” and turned the file over to Ladysmith RCMP.

A staff report in October from Tom Armet, RDN manager of building and bylaw services, referred to the property, 1415 Spruston Rd., as “unsightly” and noted that the “amount of debris, discarded materials and derelict vehicles on the property is extensive and may include hazardous materials, requiring specialized removal procedures. The area fire chief and the police have expressed concerns about the safety of first responders in the event of a fire or other emergency occurring on or near the property.”

The report estimated that 100 truckloads would be required to haul away all the material from the yard.

The Regional District of Nanaimo obtained a B.C. Supreme Court order in July 2007 directing the homeowners to clean up the property. In July 2017, the B.C. Supreme Court found the property owners in contempt of court for failing to comply with the terms of the 2007 ruling, and ordered them to “remove all refuse, tires, pallets and plastic containers from the lands” at their own expense.

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