Nanaimo Fire Rescue and the RCMP are investigating a “very suspicious” fire that damaged a crematorium in the city’s downtown.
No one was injured, but firefighters “did find some people inside — deceased persons,” said David Dales, assistant fire chief with Nanaimo Fire.
He says the crematorium, where deceased persons are cremated, was actively in business, “so the owner of the property arrived on scene and they were able to safely remove the people.”
Dales says crews were called to the fire at 12:10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, following “multiple 911 calls for three to four-metre flames” coming from a single-storey commercial property in the 100-block of Nicol Street, near Milton Street.
Nanaimo RCMP tell CHEK News the fire happened outside Evergreen Cremation Centre.
When firefighters arrived on scene, the flames were, in fact, that high and coming from the rear of the building, says Dales in an interview. He says crews quickly deployed handlines, knocking the exterior fire down to stop it from spreading to the inside of the building.
“But it had extended to the roof,” he said.
“There was heavy smoke inside the building. Our firefighters then forced entry into the building, and they cleared it, ventilated it, and pretty well fire operations were achieved within the first 20 minutes after the first truck arrived.”
Homeless person’s belongings set ablaze
RCMP Const. Gary O’Brien, media relations officer with Nanaimo RCMP, says a homeless person’s belongings were set on fire next to the building.
He says this person was uninjured, and CCTV footage shows two people in the area of the belongings just before the fire. The footage is too grainy to identify the pair.
“Next thing you know, there was a bright light, then they took off,” said O’Brien.
He says Mounties “wouldn’t be surprised” if the two people were homeless as well, “but nothing to support that theory at this time.”
According to Dales, 18 firefighters responded via three fire engines and one truck. The damage is estimated at more than $5,000, he says, and police are now assisting in the investigation.
“RCMP are currently investigating as the fire originated from the outside and moved in, and it’s also being investigated by our investigators at Nanaimo Fire,” said Dales.
“Very suspicious, as it originated on the outside.”
Dales is thanking those who called 911 and encouraging others to alert authorities when spotting a fire. The quicker crews arrive on scene, the better, he says.
“We had multiple 911 calls, and we appreciate early recognition and quick response,” added Dales. “With a quick knockdown from our first engine, we were able to minimize the damage to the building.”
Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call RCMP at 250-754-2345.