Firefighters were able to save priceless artifacts, but the Snaw-Naw-As community hall was badly damaged by an early-morning fire yesterday.
Half the building was engulfed in flame and the roof caved in, said John Marment, acting chief with Lantzville Fire Rescue.
He arrived on scene at about 4 a.m. Saturday to a fully involved fire.
“When I got around to the back, there was a minivan on fire, all the grass was on fire and the fire progressed to the side of the building,” he said. “So the back of the building was involved, which encompassed 50 per cent of the structure.”
Firefighters were told at the scene that there were important artifacts in the hall’s basement.
“Irreplaceable stuff,” Marment said. “So we managed to stop it going into the basement and saved the artifacts, and there was a couple totem poles inside that we saved as well.”
The building was unoccupied at that time of night and nobody was hurt.
Marment said the grass fire threatened the building next to it, but firefighters kept the fire from spreading in that direction. The acting chief said nine firefighters “excelled” in knocking down the fire and overhauling hot spots.
He said he has heard information about a possible cause, but couldn’t comment beyond saying the fire is suspicious and the investigation has been turned over to other jurisdiction.
Nanaimo RCMP and City of Nanaimo fire investigators examined the scene yesterday, according to a police press release, and are following up on information that a number of young people were seen in the area before the fire started.
“At this time the actual cause of the fire has not been determined and it is considered suspicious in nature,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman.
Anyone with information is asked to call RCMP at 250-754-2345, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, visit www.nanaimocrimestoppers.com or text 274637, keyword Nanaimo.