Firefighters reload hoses onto a fire truck after knocking down a blaze Monday on Portsmouth Road. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Firefighters reload hoses onto a fire truck after knocking down a blaze Monday on Portsmouth Road. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

It was ‘only a matter of time’ before fire broke out in north Nanaimo duplex, says investigator

At least seven people displaced after fire Monday on Portsmouth Road

Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s loss prevention division say they found a number of safety concerns at a house fire in north Nanaimo that could have been much worse if it had not been spotted early by bystanders.

Firefighters from four stations responded to a fire that broke out in a duplex on Portsmouth Road on Monday, Feb. 8, shortly after 12:30 p.m. The fire was quickly knocked down, though firefighters at the scene said there was significant damage to the back of the building.

Thanks to neighbours and passersby alerting the family living in the suite and adjoining unit, everyone evacuated unharmed. Damage from the fire and smoke contamination, however, has displaced at least seven people, five of them children.

Although the cause of the fire remains undetermined, Capt. Alan Millbank, Nanaimo Fire Rescue chief fire prevention officer, didn’t mince words about his findings from his investigation.

“The neglect of the premises was significant enough that it was only a matter of time before a fire occurred,” Millbank said in an e-mail. “This is an issue the landlord will need to come to terms with.”

Millbank expressed concern about the “amount of combustible storage, unsafe electrical wiring, use of open flame and lack of working smoke alarms” in the home.

One side of the duplex is undamaged and its occupants were able to return to their home. The tenants who were displaced had no tenants’ insurance and will likely lose a significant amount of their belongings due to contamination from the materials burned in the fire.

“I think this was a great save by the witnesses and responding crews as, almost certainly, the situation would have been very different had it occurred late at night,” Millbank said.

He said he was unable to make contact with the bystanders who spotted the fire and alerted the duplex’s occupants and would like to speak with them. Anyone who witnessed the fire and took part in alerting residents is asked to call Millbank at 250-755-4562.
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