At least one local family is homeless after fire ripped through their two-story home in 4-Mile on November 13. Ella Bolton, her partner Theo Nelson, and their four children were all home at the time of the blaze.
“It started in the basement at about 6pm,” Ella said. “It spread so fast we only had time to run out of the door. We didn’t even have time to put shoes on our feet.”
It was Bolton’s eldest son, eleven-year old David, who initially smelled the smoke and alerted the rest of his family. “I was upstairs playing video games and I thought at first it was the oven, so I went to check,” he said. “As soon as I left my room I could see the smoke coming out of the basement and I knew it was bad.”
David yelled for his mom, who was in her room in the basement on the other side of the house and hadn’t yet smelled the smoke. “It was really lucky he was so quick to react,” said Ella. “I could have easily been trapped down there as the fire spread so fast.”
David and his ten-year old brother, Gary, and their friends, twelve-year olds Fa’avae Vaa and Kilhus Edgar, sprang into action and carried their younger siblings, five-year old Rhianna and three-year old Tayshaun, out of the burning building. They had nothing but the clothes on their back.
Ella’s father, Verne Bolton, who also lives in the home, was at the hospital visiting her mother, Brenda Bolton. Ella called him in tears, and Verne rushed to the scene to find the house ablaze, but everyone safe and sound.
“The smoke was thick and black,” Verne said. “There was no way we could salvage anything by that time.”
The fire is suspected to have started in the dryer, which was running at the time. Ella had been doing laundry and had only just put in a fresh load a few minutes before the fire started. Once the boys smelled smoke and rushed down the stairs, the fire had crept up the wall and smoke was billowing onto the top floor.
At one point the fire almost seemed to be under control, as the neighbours had rushed over with their fire extinguishers and managed to put out part of it. Unfortunately, the second fire extinguisher was faulty and didn’t work, allowing the flames to build up again. The only smoke alarm in the house was electric and did not go off.
The Nuxalk Fire Department responded to the blaze, arriving about 20 minutes after the initial call, and the fire was completely out by around 9pm that night.
At present the cause of the fire remains unknown. However, Verne, a volunteer firefighter himself, noted that all of his electrical outlets and light fixtures were completely blown out, leading him to suspect that it was an electrical problem. The Fire Marshall is planning to investigate.
On top of the Bolton’s serious misfortunes that night, another fire started in a trash pile located right beside a home on the same street, and it appears to have been deliberately set. An apartment complex directly across from the Nuxalk Fire Hall suffered damage as a result.
Corporal Peter Dionne of the Bella Coola RCMP Detachment confirmed that the second fire was suspicious, and although the two fires are not believed to be related, they are both still under investigation.
“The second fire appears to be deliberately set as it started from the outside,” said Dionne. “There were no serious injuries, but the fire damaged two of the three triplexes in the building, so more people are homeless as a result.”
Dionne added that the resident of the third triplex took immediate action on the fire, which certainly limited the extent of the damage. The RCMP is requesting that the public contact them if they have any information on the incident. The RCMP can be reached at 250 799 5363.
At present, the Nuxalk Nation is seeking to provide immediate shelter for the families until a more permanent solution is found. Donations are being accepted for the families. Anyone able to help is asked to contact the Nuxalk Nation Administration office at 250 799 5613.
The Coast Mountain News will continue to publish details as they become available.