During the past two months, Nanaimo’s downtown has seen close to two dozen fires.
Most have been put quickly out with minimal impacts but one this past week did significant damage to one business.
Just a few ashes remain from where a fire was started outside a downtown Nanaimo business Tuesday morning, the latest in a string of arson attempts in the area.
Early Thursday morning a fire was set in wood pallets outside the same Cliff Street business that sent flames up an exterior wall before heavily damaging the building’s roof and some equipment inside.
The fire has left the owner struggling.
“We’re half shut down now. Luckily it hasn’t impacted our main office area and our front counter so we at least can still be open but certainly not what it should be,” said Tom Halsall, owner of AJac’s Equipment.
Blocks away another fire early this morning on Victoria Cresent by the 19+ Cannabis Store. Security saw people who live on the streets nearby.
Fortunately, it too was stamped out quickly.
“We do our best to keep it clean and keep it safe for our customers but we are struggling. We are asking for help from the neighbourhood, from the City of Nanaimo and the RCMP. Everyone is trying but we’re not seeing any end to these issues,” said James Maxwell, one of the store’s co-owners.
The head of the Victoria Cresent Association says social issues are swamping the area.
“If it wasn’t for the security that we are paying for as businesses in this area it probably would’ve gone up in flames and the whole block would’ve gone up in flames and somebody’s going to get killed. This has to end,” said Kevan Shaw, the association’s president.
The city has approved more security for the downtown starting July 1. The association says the help can’t come soon enough.
Police believe one, two or three people are starting the fires in isolation.
“Over the last two months we’ve had 21 fires in the downtown core and that’s within about an eight-block radius,” said Const. Gary O’Brien with Nanaimo RCMP. “The overwhelming majority are occurring late at night and they’re involved flammable materials outside businesses.”
Police say in the same boundaries during the same two-month period last year there were two fires.
Fire officials say there were 13 fires just over the weekend across the city related to the homeless.
Police are asking people to lock down dumpsters and remove flammable materials from outside their businesses something Tom Halsall says he plans on doing.