An early morning fire destroyed an old farmhouse off Westwood Road Friday.
Rick Kwasnecha, fire investigator with Nanaimo Fire Rescue, said when crews were called to the scene around 3:30 a.m., the blaze in two-storey house was already fully involved.
The fire detroyed half of the walls and part of the roof of the house, which was vacant for about a month, he added.
Neighbour Corey Piket was up attending to his sick baby son when he looked out the window and spotted the blaze.
“All of a sudden the house went from nothing to engulfed in flames, an inferno,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything burn that big and so quickly. Talking to 911, I said, ‘If you don’t get here quick, it’s going to be gone.'”
Piket estimates the house was rendered to a burned-out shell after about 10 minutes. His family was up watching fire crews battle the blaze over the next couple of hours.
The house is along a gravel drive that branches off from Westwood Road and Piket said if he hadn’t been awake to spot the blaze, flames could easily have spread – there is a stand of trees behind the house and a campground behind those trees.
“It was just a fluke that we were up with the baby,” he said.
Dave Johnson, who lives about 200 metres away on the gravel road, said he could feel the heat of the fire from his place. He was wakened by the fire trucks rushing to the scene.
“You couldn’t see much, just a big, orange ball,” he said.
Kwasnecha said the house was built in the 1920s or 1930s and the old construction, with all-wood interior and no drywall, ensured that once the fire got going, it went up fast.
The recent cool, rainy weather probably stopped the fire from doing any further damage.
“If it would have been dry, it probably would have expanded,” he said.
Kwasnecha hadn’t determined what started the fire by press time Friday.
He said the owner, who didn’t live on site and rented out the house, was checking to see if he had insurance.
Although investigators stated it was too early to say Friday morning whether the fire was suspicious or not, the RCMP’s serious crimes unit was on scene.