Emergency crews used a backhoe loader to clear fire debris from the scene of a fire on Wesley Street Thursday as police and firefighters gathered up propane tanks, stoves and fireplaces used by camp residents to heat tents. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Emergency crews used a backhoe loader to clear fire debris from the scene of a fire on Wesley Street Thursday as police and firefighters gathered up propane tanks, stoves and fireplaces used by camp residents to heat tents. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

City of Nanaimo dismantles downtown homeless encampment after fire

Four to six tents burned up in Wesley Street fire Thursday, Dec. 3

The City of Nanaimo is dismantling the homeless encampment on Wesley Street downtown after a fire there this afternoon.

Crews were called out at about 12:15 p.m. after a fire “fully destroyed multiple tents and triggered a number of explosions of propane tanks,” noted a city press release.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews extinguished the blaze and the 400 block of Wesley Street is “fully evacuated” and closed to the public, the city said.

Tim Doyle, Nanaimo Fire Rescue deputy chief, said in an interview at the scene that an estimated four to six tents went up in flames in the fire which broke out next to a staircase beside the Franklyn Street gym. The building suffered only minor damage because of a metal fence the city had installed to keep the encampment tents separated from the structure.

Staff in the city’s services and resource centre were evacuated temporarily.

Doyle said bylaws officers were the first city staff on the scene of the fire and helped evacuate people from the area and kept things calm until Nanaimo Fire Rescue arrived.

“Bylaws officers and firefighters worked together to tactically evacuate all the tent residents on Wesley Street,” Doyle said. “The 400 block of Wesley Street is currently evacuated and will remain closed to the public. Agencies are currently in the process of de-camping the residents, closing the site and making it safe again.”

Outreach workers arrived with pizzas for the estimated 60 residents who were living in the encampment. Residents were led into the camp by RCMP officers who were brought in to keep the peace, and given approximately 10 to 15 minutes to pack up their belongings and vacate the area. Doyle did not have word about where the camp residents would be going.

“The city is in contact with provincial partners who have mobilized to the site to support residents,” he said. “Agencies are working on it to help support the people who are displaced from the fire.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation, but the suspected cause is a propane tank that caught on fire, possibly due to a malfunction. No one was reported injured in the ensuing blaze.

After the fire was brought under control, firefighters went through tents to remove “alternative” heating sources, which included a variety of devices that included heating units fueled by propane and fireplaces fuelled with wood and wood pellets and to ensure there was no one unaccounted for in the tents.

A backhoe was used to clear debris from the fire.

The Wesley Street encampment is closed indefinitely for safety reasons.

“We have a lot of tents in close proximity using alternative heating sources with the weather getting cooler and wetter…” Doyle said. “Right now Wesley Street’s being closed down. I can’t speak to what’s going to happen in the near future with that, but what I can say is with the tents in such close proximity, cold weather, wet weather persisting through the winter and alternative heating sources being used, it does set the stage for ongoing dangerous conditions in there.”

Doyle said there had recently been multiple fires that had occurred in the camp, which posed a danger to residents and the neighbourhood.



editor@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

fire

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Outreach workers brought pizzas and hot coffee for the estimated 60 camp residents who were evacuated. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Outreach workers brought pizzas and hot coffee for the estimated 60 camp residents who were evacuated. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Tim Doyle, Nanaimo Fire Rescue deputy chief, said Wesley Street is now closed to the public and the camp of people experiencing homelessness is closed indefinitely. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Tim Doyle, Nanaimo Fire Rescue deputy chief, said Wesley Street is now closed to the public and the camp of people experiencing homelessness is closed indefinitely. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Camp residents were escorted by police into the camp and given about 10 to 15 minutes to gather their belongings and vacate the camp, which is now closed. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Camp residents were escorted by police into the camp and given about 10 to 15 minutes to gather their belongings and vacate the camp, which is now closed. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Just Posted

There were 164 more overdose calls in Greater Victoria in 2020 than in 2019. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria sees increase in overdose calls in 2020

Official says most deaths are in the suburbs, in garages and bedrooms

Grad student Marisa Harrington and her supervisor Lynneth Stuart-Hill say preliminary results from a study into the affects of stress on hospital nurses show an impact on sleep and heart variability. (Courtesy of Marisa Harrington)
University of Victoria study shows stress impact on Greater Victoria nurses

Stress may be impacting sleep, heart health of local hospital nurses

Lisa Love, left, and Dana Livingstone of the Wildlife Advocates Collective want to establish wildlife corridors along Sooke Road. The group wants to start with the new highway reconstruction project between Connie Road and Glinz Lake Road in Sooke. (Kevin Laird - Sooke News Mirror)
How creating wildlife crossings can help deer, bears – and even amphibians

Dana Livingstone knows the dangers wild animals can pose to drivers on… Continue reading

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, updates British Columbians about COVID-19 at a press conference earlier this week. (B.C. Government image)
B.C.’s 1st case of COVID-19 confirmed a year ago today

Here’s a look at some of the key dates in the province’s fight against the novel coronavirus

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 26

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(B.C. government photo)
POLL: Would you like to see restrictions on travel to B.C. from other provinces?

With a host of more virulent strains of COVID-19 appearing across the… Continue reading

Flowers poke through the snow in Courtenay as the area got a taste of winter weather this week. Photo by Erin Haluschak
Vancouver Island not out of the winter woods quite yet: meteorologist

“It’s winter; we’ve got to get through it together.”

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.

Most Read