Firefighters battle a blaze in a home on Orchard Circle Saturday. The fire is one of two serious recent fires in Nanaimo for which causes have yet to be determined. (News Bulletin file photo)

UPDATE: Causes of Nanaimo house fires undetermined

Investigators stumped over what sparked house fires at Orchard Circle and Plecas Road

Fire investigators are having a tough time saying for certain what caused two recent house fires in Nanaimo.

A blaze that destroyed a house on Plecas Road in South Wellington on Thursday broke out in the basement suite of the two-storey home, but beyond that the cause remains undetermined, according to Ron Gueulette, Cranberry fire chief, whose volunteer department was first on scene.

“As far as the fire department’s concerned it’s undetermined and it’s in the hands of the insurance company and they may choose to bring in a fire investigator,” Gueulette said.

He said a man living in the downstairs of the home was away when the fire started.

“We don’t know why it started down there because they weren’t there,” he said.

A woman who was living upstairs reportedly escaped unharmed.

Gueulette said the downstairs tenant was not insured and he did not know if the upstairs tenant had insurance, but the home’s owner is insured.

Four volunteer fire departments trucked more than 150,000 litres of water over six hours to completely snuff out the blaze.

A fire that heavily damaged a rental home on Orchard Circle late Saturday also remains unsolved, but Alan Millbank, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer, said, so far, the fire appears to be accidental.

Millbank dug through the remains of the home looking for clues to a cause Monday and managed to determine where it started, just not why.

“At present it’s an undetermined fire,” he said. “The house was vacant. It’s not suspicious. There’s so much damage that it’s hard for me to determine an ignition source.”

He said the fire was fully involved when firefighters arrived on scene and because the fire occurred late in the evening it might have been burning for some time before somebody noticed it and called in the alarm.

The investigation into the Orchard Circle fire is continuing.

“I have to interview witnesses to reduce the number of hypotheses I have as to the cause,” he said, Tuesday

Millbank said the fire appears to have started in an enclosed storage compartment inside the home’s carport and by Wednesday he had determined the fire likely resulted from an electrical malfunction.

“I’m still trying to figure it out, but it’s looking like there was either a baseboard heater or an electrical cause,” Millbank said. “I haven’t ruled either of the two out yet. There was some kind of electrical failure resulting in a fire.”

A blaze that damaged a trailer and its contents of carpeting and foam underlay behind End Of the Roll flooring company on Bowen Road late Sunday was started accidentally.

“Bowen Road was an accidental cooking fire,” Millbank said. “There was a homeless person staying under the trailer, making pizza, and it caught his mattress on fire and that got going and basically got into the … trailer. It was a 40-foot tractor trailer … it wasn’t an intentional fire, I know that.”

Millbank said the person who lit the fire fled the scene and he did not know if that person was injured.

There were two other fires in homeless camps over the weekend, which included one in a wooded area near Coal Tyee Elementary School Saturday afternoon and one on Mary Ellen Drive behind the Michael’s arts and crafts supplies store Sunday evening, that have yet to be investigated.

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