LANTZVILLE – The investigation into the cause of the Jan. 25 house fire and deaths of two young boys on the Snaw naw as (Nanoose) has been completed, with fire investigators concluding the fire was caused by a burning candle.
On the evening of Tuesday, January 24, a tree blown down by high winds knocked out power lines, causing a power outage for much of the Nanoose First Nation.
Residents of the home in question were using candles as their primary a light source. Fire investigators have concluded that a burning candle ignited a couch. The adult residents of the home made attempts to extinguish the burning couch, however, the fire quickly spread to the rest of the home. Within minutes the home was fully engulfed in flames.
RCMP spokesperson Gary O’Brien reported that repeated 9-1-1 calls about the fire were made just after 5 a.m. Fire crews from the Lantzville Fire Department raced to the scene to find the home on the Snaw’Naw’As reserve fully engulfed in flames.
Tom Whipps, chief of Lantzville Volunteer Fire Department, said firefighters got the callout just after 5 a.m.
“When I got here, it was through the roof and out every window and door in the place,” he said. “It was gone at 5:05 a.m.”
The fire destroyed the house, leaving just a charred frame, then spread to two vehicles parked next to the house as well as melting the vinyl siding on a neighbour’s house.
Two children, Devon, 6 and Jordan Drake, 9, perished in the fire while the owners of the home, Anitsa Hawkins and Kyle Evans, were able to get their sons, Klodi, 4, and William, 9 to safety.
The survivors were transported by ambulance to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.
Nanaimo Community Policing Sergeant Cheryl Armstrong said the two victims did not live at the home.
“The information we have is there was a power outage on the reserve last night and their parents took them to the house to be safe and, unfortunately, the fire happened and we lost two little ones,” she said.
Armstrong stressed all efforts were made to rescue the two victims, but to no avail.
She said both the mother of the two children who lived in the home, aged five seven years, and the children themselves had been treated in hospital and released. The father remains in hospital being treated for smoke inhalation. He is also suffering from burns to his hands, which he reportedly got while attempting to rescue the two children.
Alice Sampson, who lives two doors down, said her father woke her up to tell her the neighbour’s house was on fire.
Thinking it was the house next door, she ran to the door without her glasses, tripping over toys and furniture on the way, to see what was happening.
“It felt like all of a sudden, everything was in my way,” said Sampson.
Once there, she realized the fire was two doors down, where a family of four who are relatives of Sampson lived.
“The whole house was right up, engulfed in flames,” she said. “I could feel the heat from over here. I seen the couple standing there and I didn’t know if it was the mother or the husband or the neighbour that was crying.”
Sampson said she learned the couple and their own two children were OK, but that two children who were staying with the family overnight – also relatives of Sampson’s who live nearby on the reserve – were not.
Nanaimo RCMP, First Nations police officers and Nanaimo Victim Services are assisting with family and local band members.
The fire is being investigated by the Nanaimo RCMP Serious Crime Unit, with the assistance of the B.C. Fire Marshall’s office.
– with files from the Nanaimo News Bulletin/Black Press