Update: One person injured in fire in south Nanaimo

NANAIMO - Police deem early morning fire that displaced 18 residents as suspicious.

Nanaimo RCMP have deemed a fire that displaced 18 people on the weekend as suspicious.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue responded to the blaze at the five-suite multi-residential building in the 200 block of Sabiston Street at about 12:50 a.m. Saturday to find one unit fully engulfed in flame.

Police confirmed in a press release Monday afternoon that the fire appears to have started on a front porch of the building. The fire was contained to the suite, which suffered severe fire damage, but four adjoining suites were heavily smoke damaged and the building was left without power.

The investigation has been turned over to the Nanaimo RCMP, but no suspects have been identified.

All tenants were able to make it out of the building on their own, said Umesh Lal, fire prevention officer with Nanaimo Fire Rescue, but one woman had to be treated for burns to the back of her neck and shoulder.

“She wasn’t admitted into hospital,” Lal said. “It was just to get checked out.”

Nanaimo RCMP also said an elderly man was injured in the fire and was treated for cuts and scrapes.

The residents were provided with 72 hours’ shelter at the Howard Johnson Harbourside Hotel under the city’s Community Assistance Program.

The RCMP were called in and have started an investigation into the cause of the fire, said Lal.

“There was some information I found at the site so then I asked for their assistance, so they’re doing it from their end and we’re doing our end,” Lal said. “I’m still trying to talk to all the witnesses and all that because there were 18 people in the residence and I haven’t had the opportunity to talk to everybody yet, so I’m still gathering information to figure it out.”

Lal said none of the units he has investigated so far had working smoke alarms and residents banged on doors to alert each other to the fire.

The building is insured, but none of the residents had tenants’ insurance.

The Palace Hotel is collecting donations to help the fire victims and is a drop-off location for anything people would like to contribute.

The hotel will also host a barbecue fundraiser on its patio Sunday (Oct. 30), starting at 2 p.m.

For more information about the relief effort, please call Bernie Gobell, Palace Hotel manager at 250-753-7465 or e-mail promotions@nanaimoentertainment.com.

Anyone who has information about this fire, please contact the Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or Crime Stoppers at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com, text 274637, keyword Nanaimo or call 1-800-22-8477.