‘I’m always worried’: String of ‘unhoused’ fires is raising alarm in Nanaimo

'I'm always worried': String of 'unhoused' fires is raising alarm in Nanaimo
A storage shed behind the Cerman Cultural Centre in Nanaimo was destroyed in a fire on Sept. 22, 2023.

Nanaimo fire crews were called to the German Cultural Centre Friday morning to extinguish a storage shed fire, just steps from a homeless camp.

Stuart Kenning, assistant fire chief in Nanaimo, says the call was received at 6:20 a.m. and crews arrived to find a fully engulfed shed fire.

“There was no damage to the main Cultural Center building,” he told CHEK News in a phone interview, noting there were no injuries in the fire. “We had four engines on scene, only two were needed.”

Kenning says the Cultural Centre caretaker called in the fire, and while still under investigation, evidence at the scene suggests the fire was caused by someone unhoused living nearby.

“It seems like it’s the time of year as well, for heating fires, cooking fires, are starting again and it’s sort of the time of year when the unhoused population tries to stay warm again,” said Kenning.

Nanaimo resident and security guard John Vosburgh toured the damage and camp Friday, and told CHEK News that he was alarmed by what he found, including drug paraphernalia, cooking supplies and an animal leg trap.

“I’m always worried about what’s going on. I got two kids to look after,” said Vosburgh.

There were tires in the storage shed that was destroyed in a fire on Sept. 22, 2023.

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