Historic Nanaimo Church building heavily damaged by fire


A historic building in the community of East Wellington near Nanaimo is partially in ruins following an overnight fire.

The Unity Vancouver Island Church building on East Wellington Road suffered heavy damage after a fire broke out in the main hall of the 131-year-old structure on Monday August 15.

Captain Darcy Morgan of the East Wellington Fire Department said there was thick smoke and flames on the side of the building when he arrived at the scene shortly before 11.30pm.

“We started an outside attack and then we got a bit more aggressive, but it was a bit too hot inside so we pulled back and [Lantzville Fire Rescue]our automatic help partner, showed up and helped,” he said.

As East Wellington has no fire hydrants, Lantzville Fire Rescue relayed water to the scene of the blaze and also added, according to Morgan, up to 10 firefighters to assist East Wellington’s 16 firefighters. on the spot.

“About an hour we realized we were going to need more manpower, so they actually sent a second engine,” Morgan said.

Firefighters remained at the scene until approximately 4:30 a.m. on Tuesday August 16.

Morgan said no one was injured in the blaze, but a firefighter was sent to hospital as a precaution – the reason was not explained – and released later that morning.

The fire captain said the cause of the fire is under investigation, but appears to have started in the main hall and does not appear suspicious in nature. The most significant fire damage to the structure is in the main hall and on the roof above, but there is heat, fire, smoke and water damage throughout the rest of the building. Morgan said whether the building can be salvaged will depend on the insurance company.

“It was pretty heavily damaged,” he said. “The building was built years and years ago, so it was real heavy carpentry and…I attribute that to why it’s still standing now.”

Several groups operated from the building, including a church and a daycare center. Morgan said he believes the building was originally owned by former coal mine developer, industrialist and politician Robert Dunsmuir and served as a school for the area.

“I know my dad, who’s a retired assistant chief, went as a freshman there in 1951 or 1952, so the building has been there for as long as I know…” the captain said. “It was hard to see. Our old fire station was right next door on the same land. We moved from there in 2008 to our new hall.

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(Chris Bush/Newsletter)

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