Firefighters had to climb down a ravine to extinguish a brush fire caused by an explosion at a small homeless camp along the Millstone River.
Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews were called to the 600 block of Rosehill Street at about 2:45 p.m. Sunday. Assistant chief Martin Drakeley said the call came in as an explosion and bush fire.
“When [firefighters] arrived, they found a lot of flame and smoke at the bottom of the gully next to the Millstone River,” he said.
Drakeley said it appeared a man living at a campsite there had caused an explosion.
“It involved fire and some type of explosive gas, propane maybe; we’re not sure at this point,” Drakeley said. “It basically decimated his whole camp.”
A first responder on scene said no one was hurt in the fire.
A witness said the resident of the camp had built some type of structure, but Drakeley said it’s hard to tell.
“It’s so badly damaged down there. Everything’s burned up,” he said.
He said investigators will be at the site Monday, to try to determine the cause and also because the incident could have started a more serious interface fire.
“If that had been in summer time, the bank is right there and fire travels up bank to those old hotels and a lot of the people are infirm in those places…” he said. “Thankfully, it was still a little bit damp and the guys were able to get there quickly and extinguish it.”
The steep bank caused access challenges, but a trail led right to the camp. Crews hauled more than 350 metres of hose in fighting the fire.
Drakeley asked that motorists be reminded not to drive over fire hoses after four vehicles did just that on Sunday. He said at structure fires, in particular, momentarily losing water can be detrimental to firefighters’ health.