Investigators spent Friday sifting through the rubble of a downtown Nanaimo block trying to find the source of Wednesday’s massive fire.
It’s left 15 businesses homeless and a hole in the heart of the city. People who fear they’ve lost everything hope that something will be found in the rubble.
As investigators combed through the rubble of a historic Nanaimo building looking for the cause a stream of people whose lives are in there have been approaching the fire line. Craning to look inside and see if anything might have made it through the powerful blaze and explosion that rocked the building Wednesday night.
“The first 24 hours I was sort of in denial and it finally really hit me last night,” says Nanaimo resident Gerda Hofman.
15 businesses call this block home and many like Hoffman, an artist are uninsured.
“I’m right behind that tree there,” she says pointing to a broken window.
Tens of thousands of dollars worth of her art now lies in her burned out studio behind this window, and she’s hoping for a longshot that something might have survived.
“And that we are can salvage something but at the moment no,” says Hofman.
Asking investigators if she could be allowed in soon. But the investigation is top priority and officials say it is dangerous walking in there.
“Obviously the serious fire conditions,” says Fire Chief Craig Richardson of Nanaimo Fire Rescue. “High degrees of burn and things that they’re needing to dig through to actually find the pieces of evidence that they’re looking for.
The Fire Chief expects it to be several days before a cause is identified.
“What you see here is the physical investigation and actually digging through the burnt out building to determine what the cause might have been. But the other side of that is they need to be speaking to people and interviewing people,” says Richardson.
Fundraising for those who’ve lost their businesses started before the smoke had even cleared. At the Vault Cafe across the street, donations are pouring in to help out.
“It’s a super tragedy for those people and for the downtown,” says Vault Cafe owner Amanda Scott.
As those being kept out continue to hope there just might be something in there that was saved.
“At this point I have no idea,” says Hofman.