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Some able to move back in after fire at Nanaimo supportive-housing facility

An individual admitted to causing the fire while smoking on the mattress

Some residents of a Nanaimo supportive-housing complex evacuated after a fire early Sunday were able to return Monday to their units on the fourth floor, which was not damaged by fire or water.

All 57 residents of the Nicol Street facility were safely evacuated after the fire, which was started by a lit cigarette on a mattress.

Corrie Corfield with the Island Crisis Care Society, which operates the facility, said temporary housing has been found for most of the remaining residents who were forced out, including 10 people with mobility or health issues who have been placed in a motel.

“So, that’s one of the challenges in this whole situation, is a lot of the people who rely on that building and who live there have significant health challenges, and may be seniors, or [they] may be coping with all sorts of health situations,” said Corfield.

She said Island Crisis Care had to bring in food and clothing for residents because many of them left with nothing more than the pyjamas they were wearing.

“It was a challenging day, but everyone really banded together and had a good attitude about things,” Corfield said.

Services in the building were back up on Monday, Corfield said.

The fire started shortly before 6 a.m. Sunday in a mattress in a third-floor unit, said Nanaimo Fire Rescue assistant fire chief Troy Libbus.

Crews quickly knocked down the fire and the building’s sprinkler system prevented it from spreading further, he said.

An individual admitted to causing the fire while smoking on the mattress, Libbus said.

Displaced residents were initially taken to Bowen Park social centre by bus, he said.

Nanaimo’s emergency social services were activated.

The supportive housing facility has smoke damage on the third floor as well as “a lot” of water damage caused by the sprinkler system going off, he said.

Libbus said the building evacuation was orderly and without incident. “Everyone did exactly what they were supposed to do when the alarms go off.”

The Samaritan Place building has 52 units of long-term supportive housing and 14 bridge-to-housing beds for women in need, according to B.C. Housing’s website.

The building began taking residents in March 2022 and has 24/7 onsite staff support.

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