A blaze that scorched several hectares in an empty lot on Fourth Street Friday was likely caused by vagrants.
The fire burned about three hectares and was driven by strong winds. Flames forced the evacuation of three homes on Wheatley Place, but firefighters were able to stop the fire just shy of property lines on Wheatley Place and Hillcrest Avenue and bring it under control.
Alan Millbank, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer, said a cooking fire is the suspected cause. Firefighters found the remains of several camp sites containing lighters, portable propane can and cooking utensils, shopping carts, tents and other improvised shelters.
“It’ looks to be caused by a vagrant’s campfire,” Millbank said.
The brush area, about four hectares in total, is made up of three large, privately-owned, vacant lots.
No homes were damaged and no one was injured.
“The extreme dry conditions and high winds caused this fire to spread very quickly,” said Martin Drakeley, assistant fire chief, in a press release Monday. “The winds changed direction several times and crews were fighting the fire from several sides in order to contain it. It’s still really dry out here and the conditions are not expected to change any time soon.”