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Vehicles damaged in suspicious early-morning fire in Nanaimo

Const. Chamberlain Zayonc, RCMP forensic identification specialist, photographs burned vehicles at the scene of a suspicious fire on Cilaire Drive Thursday. No one was injured, but damage is estimated at $100,000. - CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin
Const. Chamberlain Zayonc, RCMP forensic identification specialist, photographs burned vehicles at the scene of a suspicious fire on Cilaire Drive Thursday. No one was injured, but damage is estimated at $100,000.
— image credit: CHRIS BUSH/The News Bulletin

Nanaimo Fire Rescue and RCMP investigators are piecing together evidence of a suspicious fire that caused an estimated $100,000 in property damage.

Firefighters rushed to the fire scene at a house at 168 Cilaire Dr. at about 3 a.m. Thursday where they were confronted with four vehicles and a hedge fully ablaze, dense smoke, and fire dangerously close to igniting that house and one next door at 174 Cilaire Dr.

Four vehicles in the driveway, including a Ford F-150 crew cab pickup, a BMW sedan, a Jeep YJ and Jeep Cherokee were destroyed as was a boat parked between the two residences.

The fire caused minor damage to the exterior of both homes.

Vanessa Dimter, neighbour, discovered the fire when she was awoken by a vehicle alarm and a bang.

"I ran to the window – the bang made me jump out of bed – I saw a red light under my door, so I opened up the sliding door, which leads me to [a room in the front of the home] and it was just lit up red," Dimter said. "I opened the window and the whole bush and the grass was on fire."

Dimter called 911 when her mother, Angela, told her it was the vehicles that were on fire.

Dimter's father, Richard, tried unsuccessfully to slow down the blaze with a garden hose until firefighters arrived.

All 11 residents were evacuated from both houses and no one was injured.

"It was terrifying, though," Dimter said. "Two hours of standing outside and watching."

Residents of the home the fire originated at declined to comment. Police said they have found alternative temporary housing.

Rick Kwasnecha, fire prevention officer, turned the investigation over to the RCMP, suspecting the origin of the fire could be suspicious, but exact cause of the fire had not been determined Thursday morning.

Const. Gary O'Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman, said in a press release that the investigation was active, but no arrests had been made.

"To assist investigators, we are asking the public to call us if they saw or heard anything prior to 3 a.m. that may relate to the fire," O'Brien said. "Namely, cars parked or driving in the area that do not normally belong there, persons walking or running and any sounds heard immediately before or after the fire was reported."

Fire investigators turned over a second structure fire to RCMP after a house on Victoria Road at Rainer Street went up in flames early Sunday morning.

Fire crews were met with heavy smoke and flames showing from a single-story structure and were able to knock the fire down quickly. The home sustained heavy smoke and fire damage.

One person rented the home and did not have insurance but was able to stay with family locally. The fire prevention officer investigated through the morning Sunday and deemed the fire suspicious, turning the file over the RCMP for further investigation.

Anyone with information about these incidents is asked to call Nanaimo RCMP at 250-754-2345 or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com.

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