The Nelson fire and police departments are investigating a “suspicious” fire that caused about $25,000 damage to a heritage building over the weekend.
At 1:30 a.m. Saturday, the fire department responded to a call at the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences at 303 Vernon Street. Both on duty members responded immediately and 13 additional members responded from home, bringing two engines, a ladder truck, tender truck, utility vehicle and one personal vehicle.
The first crew saw smoke coming from the basement and main floor area, Capt. Rick Maida said in a news release.
After ensuring the building was evacuated, the first crew located the fire, which was quickly extinguished, preventing the flames from spreading to the rest of the building.
Before that, two people in the building had tried unsuccessfully to put the fire out with extinguishers.
There were no injuries.
The fire department says the blaze appears to have started in the basement, appears suspicious, and is under investigation.
“There was no mechanical reason, nor any other reason why a fire would have occurred in the location where it originated,” chief Simon Grypma said Monday. However, he said no link has been established to other recent suspicious fires, including a porch fire on Pine Street on August 1, a tree fire on Ward Street on August 30, and a bus stop bulletin board on September 20.
The fire at the academy is under “active investigation” by both police and firefighters, Grypma said, although the police department has taken the lead.
Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences administrator Jennifer Gawne said classes were cancelled this morning as they cleaned walls and furniture. However, the clinic spaces were not affected. The clinic and dispensary are open to the public this afternoon at their usual hours. Classes will resume tomorrow on their regular schedule.
The stone building was formerly the warehouse of the McDonald Jam Factory, built in 1920. It received Nelson’s first Heritage Building of the Year award in 1980. The academy, a traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture school, has occupied it since 1996.
Grypma said the fire was a “difficult” way to start Fire Prevention Week.
The fire department is asking you to ensure your smoke alarm is operating and that you have a home fire safety plan. It was the department’s 906th call this year.