Eric Di Giacomo/Facebook
Crews are battling a major structure fire in downtown Nanaimo at this hour.
Heavy smoke can still be be seen pouring out the old Acme Restaurant building on Commercial Street.
The fire started around 6:30pm and within half an hour the downtown was black with smoke and explosions rocked the structure.
“I can’t believe this we were just here like half an hour ago 45 minutes and everything was fine,” said one bystander at the scene.
All four of the city’s fire stations have sent crews.
Roads have been closed in the area including The Island Highway, traffic is being diverted and people are urged to avoid the downtown area.
“The smoke is so bad and we’re just asking people to let the responders work and steer clear of the area, ” said Nanaimo Emergency Manager Karen Lindsay.
The smoke can be seen rising above the city several kilometers away including from the Gabriola Island ferry.
Witnesses say the fire spread to other parts of the two-story structure and that the whole complex has been gutted.
There are no reports of any injuries.
But several business have been destroyed including Cindy Cameron’s women’s boutique
” I’m not sure how to take it right now but I’m just glad I have insurance, ” Cameron said.
“But I feel for a lot of people in the building that probably don’t.”
Jackie Hendrix writes on Facebook “Sorry for all the business losses and to The Nanaimo Arts Council and all artists including my friends who had artwork on display there.”
Crews are expected to stay on scene battling and preventing the fire’s spread through the night.