Three people are recovering from burns and 10 people have been displaced from their homes following two fires over Christmas holiday.
A woman, 22, had recently moved into a rental house at 24 Machleary St. and was entertaining her parents, visiting from Bowser, with a fondue dinner when fire broke out shortly before 8 p.m. Christmas Eve.
Ennis Mond, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer, said fuel in a fondue pot heater in the living room flashed over when someone, not realizing the burner was still lit, attempted to refuel it.
The flashover ignited several items in the living room, which the woman’s father managed to snuff out.
“Then the Christmas tree caught fire,” Mond said. “He attempted to drag it out. The sofa caught fire at the same time.”
The woman’s father received second-degree burns to his hands trying to get the Christmas tree out of the house.
After failing to douse the fire with pots of water, the woman and her parents evacuated the home safely.
“Then the mother decided she had to go back to get her purse and went into the living room area, which was burning, and grabbed her purse,” Mond said. “She’s now at Royal Jubilee Hospital (Victoria) with third-degree burns on her body.”
The daughter also went back in to retrieve her pets. She was forced to escape out the back door of the house and received first- and second-degree burns to her arms and hands. All three people were also treated for smoke inhalation.
A neighbour was also treated for smoke inhalation she received while evacuating her home.
Two tenants living in the basement suite of the house were out of town at the time of the fire.
A pet cat was found safe, but a pet lizard has not been accounted for.
Mond said there were no working smoke alarms in the house. They were to be installed as part of renovations that were being done to the home, which is now a write-off.
The house was insured, but none of the tenants had insurance.
“If this had happened in the middle of the night there wouldn’t have been three people going to the hospital,” Mond said. “There would have been three people going to the morgue.”
Mond also said people should never re-enter a burning building after they have already safely evacuated and that much of the damage could have been minimized if the tenants had not tried to fight the fire themselves.
The daughter and father were released from Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and have been given 72 hours food, clothing and lodging through the Nanaimo Fire Rescue Community Assistance Program, said Karen Lindsay, Nanaimo Emergency Services Program coordinator, and neighbours have contacted the fire victims with offers of clothing and other items.
A second house fire at 3793 Norwell Dr. Christmas Day is under investigation by Nanaimo RCMP.
The fire happened shortly before 5:30 p.m. in a group home for mentally challenged young adults.
“The fire was contained to one bedroom, but there’s smoke damage throughout the building,” Mond said.
Mond did not elaborate on circumstances pertaining to the fire that led him to turn the investigation over to police.
Five people were displaced in that incident, but no injuries were reported.
Lindsay said the victims will be relocated through the care agencies they normally deal with.