WATCH: Nanaimo RCMP are investigating two fires that started in close proximity to each other on the banks of the Millstone River. The fires broke out Thursday night affecting two homeless men. Kendall Hanson tells us who one of the men fears they are being targetted by an arsonist.
Jeff Yaremy was surveying the damage to his possessions by the Millstone River, in Nanaimo’s downtown, Friday morning.
For months, he’s lived at the same spot on the river’s banks, but this morning he arrived to find all he owned had been destroyed by a fire.
“I was demoralized. I was shocked,” said Yaremy.
He’s wonders who would have set what he considered to be his home on fire.
Yaremy believes someone purposely set his possessions on fire.
“Absolutely. I was gone all day. Nothing would have smouldered that long and then all of a sudden started a fire at 9 p.m. at night. I left it yesterday morning at 8:30”
Meters away, at the same time, another fire started on a nearby bank. The flames quickly spread up the hill close to where another homeless man was staying.
“When I got up to go and try and put it out, I realized there was another fire so it’s pretty unlikely that it would be natural spontaneous combustion,” said Kyle Bryson, who is homeless and witnessed the fires.
Firefighters responded to a 911 call and put the fires out. Police say while they haven’t been able to determine the cause it is suspicious.
Nanaimo’s community safety manager says this fire is an example of how the homeless are vulnerable.
“That’s part of the difficult cycle of homelessness that you’re constantly losing things to theft and fires and these types of things and the folks have to start over again. it makes it difficult for them,” said Dave LaBerge.
Yaremy says he’s certain this is an attack on the homeless but he says it doesn’t change his resolve. He plans to remain near the river, a place he wants to continue to call home.