Police escorted residents of a homeless encampment on Wesley Street to and from the site to collect their belongings Thursday and Friday following a fire that destroyed several tents and ignited a number of propane tanks. The encampment has been permanently cleared and its residents dispersed. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)

Occupants of Nanaimo’s Wesley Street encampment offered support following fire and displacement

City of Nanaimo permanently clears homeless camp over ongoing safety concerns

Nanaimo’s Wesley Street encampment residents and their belongings continued to be removed from the street’s 400 block Friday.

According to a City of Nanaimo press release, the block the encampment was established on will be “reinstated to a clear state” following a fire that broke out Thursday that destroyed several tents and triggered propane tank explosions.

As a result of the physical danger from the proximity of tents, fuel and heating sources at the scene, Nanaimo Fire Rescue issued an order that required occupants to be dispersed and Wesley Street to be cleared of dangerous materials, the release noted.

Camp occupants were given opportunities to retrieve personal belongings Thursday afternoon and Friday morning and Island Health was mobilized to support occupants displaced by the fire. An estimated 60 people were living in the encampment.

The street was also cleared of dangerous materials and was expected to remain closed to traffic throughout the weekend. The release also noted that erecting structures, including tents, is not permitted on city road right of ways.

The encampment existed on the 400 block of Wesley Street and an empty lot on the corner of Franklyn and Wesley streets for approximately one year prior to Thursday’s fire.

Bill Sims, the city’s general manager of public works and engineering, told city councillors at a finance and audit meeting Friday that the community clean team had been spending two to three hours a day every weekday on Wesley Street and will now turn its efforts to other areas of the city.

“I think there’s going to likely be some dispersal, so it’ll be some longer travel time,” he said.

Councillors voted unanimously to extend the clean team’s funding another year using $248,300 from the city’s special initiatives reserve.

RELATED: City dismantling Wesley Street homeless encampment after fire

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