A massive Nanaimo fire has left four people homeless and investigators are looking closely at the possibility it was sparked by oily rags that spontaneously combusted in the summer heat. Skye Ryan reports.
Sifting through the rubble of a destroyed Nanaimo home Monday, fire investigators focused in closely on the charred remains of a main floor woodshed that pointed to the cause of a fire that displaced four people on Saturday.
Fire investigators say the cause of the fire was the spontaneous combustion of oily rags, that in this case were used to stain a renovation project hours before.
“Over time in the warmer temperatures it’s a chemical reaction that causes spontaneous combustion,” said Nanaimo Fire Prevention Officer Kevin Lillingston.
Investigators say that rags and a paint brush were tossed in a garbage can when the homeowner completed a staining project Friday afternoon. They hadn’t realized that combined with the heat from summer and the garbage in that can, the rags and brush were a ticking time bomb that was likely smouldering for hours before it set the home on fire and rocked North Nanaimo at 5 a.m. Saturday.
“It was just a wall, completely engulfed,” said next door neighbour Michael Hartmann. “There was no smoke. Just orange flame.”
Hartmann immediately set up a defense with fire hoses, wetting down his home, as flames singed his trees and siding. The four people who escaped the home, a couple and their downstairs renters, stood in shock in the street watching fire fighters keep it from spreading to neighbouring homes.
“Absolute trucks and crews everywhere. There was streams of water coming down with foam everywhere,” said Hartmann.
Firefighters were able to protect neighbouring homes, but the home where the blaze began, investigators say appears to be a complete loss. To prevent a tragedy like this, officials say oil covered rags and paintbrushes should be immersed in water in a metal container and then dried out.