Fire at Nanaimo apartment building worsened as air intake spreads smoke to multiple floors

Debris is shown following a fire in a storage area at Seacrest Apartments in Nanaimo March 20, 2023.

A fire broke out at a Nanaimo apartment building late Sunday night, temporarily displacing residents after smoke spread to multiple floors.

The incident occurred at Seacrest Apartments at Front and Chapel streets in downtown Nanaimo at about 11:45 PM. Four fire engines and 16 firefighters were dispatched to tackle the blaze, according to Nanaimo Fire Rescue Assistant Chief Stuart Kenning.

“It was beside a dumpster, an exterior access storage locker that was on fire,” said Kenning.

Crews made quick work of the fire but not before smoke from the apartment building’s storage area caused headaches for a number of units due to its proximity to an air intake unit.

“What happened was the air handling unit for the building that’s right there, it sucked up a lot of the smoke. and it sucked the smoke basically into floors one through eight,” said Kenning. He said it took firefighters roughly 50 minutes to get the smoke out of the building, adding displaced residents were allowed back inside once it was taken care of.

While the official cause of the fire is still unknown, RCMP say early indications are that a vulnerable person trying to keep warm started it. It’s not yet clear if it got out of control accidentally or intentionally.

The investigation into the fire remains ongoing.

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Jeff Lawrence

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