The Nelson Fire Department says the fire at Kerr’s Apartments was not deliberately set — but beyond that, they’re at a loss to pinpoint the cause of the January blaze that left around 80 people homeless.
“We’ve eliminated a number of things. That’s what we went intending to do. But we could not conclude anything,” says deputy chief Bob Slade.
Slade led the site investigation this week, following the demolition of the building’s rear wall by an excavator and removal of several tonnes of debris covering the fire’s origin point.
The fire was initially termed suspicious because there was no apparent cause. Investigators this week looked for any sign that someone was living in the basement, but found none.
“We looked for any evidence of someone staying in that area as accommodation, making a camp in there,” Slade says. “We ruled that out. I don’t believe there was anyone down there. We didn’t find anything that [suggested] there were people there for any more than typical coming and going.”
Slade says he is “absolutely comfortable” saying the fire was not the result of arson.
Instead, it will go into the books as undetermined.
“It could have been something discarded in a garbage can, a discarded cigarette. Anything along those lines that [caused] a fire later.”
There is no sign the fire resulted from an electrical failure, he says.
The building has now been turned over to the owner to secure.
Although the fire department’s site investigation is complete, Slade says it will be a few more months before they close the file. They will continue to collect and look at personal statements and collect other evidence with the help of police.
It’s unclear how much of the remaining building can be saved.