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Mattress fire displaces 51 at B.C. supportive housing building

Fire in mattress caused by resident smoking

A mattress fire displaced 51 people from a supportive housing complex in Nanaimo on the weekend. 
Firefighters responded to an alarm at Samaritan Place, a four-storey supportive housing complex at 720 Nicol St., shortly before 6 a.m. Sunday, June 16. 
"En route it was upgraded into a structure fire," said Troy Libbus, Nanaimo Fire Rescue assistant chief of operations. "With a structure fire we deploy four apparatus ... and upon arrival we had evacuation in progress and smoke showing from the third floor."
Libbus said firefighters were sent into the building to investigate and knock down the fire. 
"At that time the hallway's full of smoke and using the thermal imaging camera they could see there was a mattress in the hallway that was out. A sprinkler system was activated and doing its job." 
As firefighters entered the building they also encountered residents leaving the building via the stairwells and helped them get outside. Libbus said there was thick smoke in the third-floor hallway.
"We did a quick primary search to make sure everyone was out of the building and then did a quick knock-down of the fire, which was basically knocked down by the [building] sprinkler system," said Libbus, who was incident commander at the scene.
No one was injured, but there was smoke damage to the building's third floor and water damage to the third and second floor, which forced the building to remain evacuated. Two buses were brought in to temporarily shelter the residents while the city's emergency support services co-ordinated temporary lodging for the 51 displaced residents. They were taken to Bowen Park Activity Centre while temporary lodging was arranged at Newcastle Place, 250 Terminal Ave., and other locations through B.C. Housing.
"We had three ESS people, plus Samaritan House staff attending to the residents and a community safety officer there to provide assistance, too," Libbus said. 
He said the fire was caused by a resident smoking. 
"The gentleman did admit to the RCMP that he was smoking and the mattress caught on fire," Libbus said. 
A restoration company has been called in to repair water damage and restore the building's fire suppression sprinkler system. 
As of the morning of Monday, June 17, the building remained evacuated and restoration workers were on scene.
Libbus said one reason why there were no injuries was because everyone exited the building in an orderly manner when the fire alarm sounded. 
The News Bulletin has reached out to Island Crisis Care Society, which operates the facility, for an estimate of when Samaritan House might be back in operation.

Chris Bush

About the Author: Chris Bush

As a photographer/reporter with the Nanaimo News Bulletin since 1998.
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