Update: Fire Chief Tim Pley said that the fire was accidental in nature and caused by faulty makeshift wiring.
(Original story below)
Port Alberni Fire Department crews responded to a small fire in an uninhabited house on 10th Avenue this (July 30) afternoon.
“We got in and found no fire in the main floor and found a fire brewing in the basement,” said fire Chief Tim Pley. The house was full of debris and had signs of a rat infestation.
“It appears no one was living there,” said Pley. “It was difficult getting in there with all the debris and stuff in there.
No one was hurt in the blaze.
“We extinguished the fire in the basement and swept the house and found no people and no other fires.”
One of the dangers of uninhabited homes, Pley said, was that fire crews often find more than one fire when they enter.
“Sometimes when we get houses that are unsecured you have to watch out for more than one fire but we’ve found nothing else here.”
Fire prevention officer Randy Thoen said that homes that aren’t inhabited often have their utilities turned off, leading to unconventional and dangerous replacements.
“Typically services aren’t turned on so that’s when people start to use methods that aren’t normal—candles, generators, that sort of thing.
A homemade exhaust system for a generator caused the July 27 house fire on Fourth Avenue when the exhaust pipe overheated and lit the outside wall of the home on fire.
Another danger is that fires in uninhabited homes can also grow and spread unreported.
“If somebody is in the home then the smoke alarm goes off so they notice it and deal with it,” said Pley. “If there’s nobody home that leads to a structure fire.”
Fortunately, Pley said, this fire was reported quickly.
“We got called in really quickly.”
Neighbours said that the house has been uninhabited for years but that they regularly see people coming in and out—possibly squatters.
“They’re not occupied and people vandalize them and vandalism can sometimes lead to arson,” said Pley.
Firefighters will remain on scene to watch over the building and ensure nothing sparks up again.