Oil-soaked rags blamed for house fire

NANAIMO – Oily rags ignited blaze that displaced 10 and caused more than $1 million in property damage.

Oil-soaked rags triggered a fire that destroyed one home, heavily damaged a second, caused extensive exterior damage to a third house, destroyed at least two vehicles and displaced 10 people on Nanaimo’s Southwood Drive June 28.

Total damage, estimated at more than $1 million, was caused by rags used to soak up excess stain applied to a house at 1061 Southwood Dr., which were put in a garbage can to keep them from the homeowner’s two-year-old daughter, said Alan Millbank, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer.

The rags ignited on the back patio. Wind and a 30-degree temperature drove the flames up the home’s rear exterior wall and burned into the attic.

“I live right across the street and at 2 o’clock in the morning I was hosing my roof down because that wind was so terrible,” said Lee Masciarelli.

Next door neighbour Brad Mazzocato is credited with saving the occupants when he spotted the fire, banged on doors and eventually broke into the burning home through a window to rouse the occupants in time to escape the blaze. The exterior fire had not triggered interior smoke alarms.

Martin Drakeley, assistant fire chief, said the first fire truck from Fire Station 4 arrived four minutes, 48 seconds after crews were dispatched, but the home was burning several minutes before the first 911 call was received and was fully ablaze when firefighters arrived.

A fire hydrant with a broken valve meant firefighters could not immediately switch over to the city water supply. The crew used their truck’s onboard water and foam supply to protect the home at 1057 Southwood Dr., and reconnected to a second hydrant down the street as a firetruck from Fire Station 1 arrived to start battling a roof fire at 1065 Southwood Dr. Fire also ruptured natural gas lines in the first house

“Then about 15 minutes into it, both of the fuel tanks split on the cars in front,” Drakely said, adding the first crew had to protect the house at 1057 Southwood Dr. as well as put out the fuel tanks.

An aerial truck on Douglas Street attacked the fires from behind the homes. All fires were out by 7 a.m.

Millbank said the person who put the oily rags in the garbage can was unaware of the potential danger.

“Make sure you read the labels of all the products you use so you can dispose of them properly,” Millbank said.

The fire hydrant valve failure is under investigation.

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