A fire that broke out in a Nanaimo home where two adults and a seven-year-old girl were found dead on Tuesday has been ruled to be accidental.
Fire investigators completed their probe on Friday, and said the flames most likely broke out due to unattended candles.
Emergency crews were called to the home at 754 Nicol St. just after 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
The call originally came in as a disturbance, which was modified shortly afterward to be a fire call said Nanimo RCMP Cpl. Jon Stuart.
Mike McLachlan was working a landscaping job at the neighbour’s house when the fire broke out.
He said the owner of the house where he was working and a BC Hydro employee tried to kick the door in to save the occupants.
“That’s what set me off is the yelling and screaming. I think a neighbour had said that they thought they heard an argument or maybe an explosion on the news, but I think actually that was the door being kicked in and yelling for anybody inside.”
But by the time they were able to break their way in, it was too late he said.
“I’m a level three first aid attendant, and if I can I’m going to offer assistance to anybody that I can see. But at that point it was just so much smoke that anybody entering, other than a fire crew with oxygen, would have perished as well most likely.”
When crews were able to put the flames down and finally enter the home, they found the three inside.
While the initial probe into the cause of the fire has been completed, a second investigation remains underway as to whether the family died as a result of the fire, or another cause.
WATCH: A seven-year-old girl and two adults have been found dead following a house fire in Nanaimo. As Neetu Garcha reports, the incident is now being investigated by the serious crimes unit.
Stuart now confirms the three victims were a family: two parents in their mid-40s and their daughter who was in grade two.
The trio have been identified by friends and family as Jason Stephenson and Amberlee Scarr and their daughter Piper.
Stuart said it is not clear yet why the child was at home, as classes were in session that day.
Children at her school were informed of the tragedy by letter on Wednesday, and administrators and teachers are offering counselling to any student who wants it.
“What we’re providing these students and staff at the school is grief counselling,” said Dale Burgos with the Nanaimo School District.
“That’s very typical of situations like this where you’d provide counsellors and professionals that can speak to the students and staff that need that help.”
‘Just a couple of beauties’
Trevor Ainscough told CKNW he knew Scarr from high school and recently rekindled their friendship. He also knew Piper and said mother and daughter were inseperable.
“They are just a couple of beauties,” he said. “They like to joke around and have a good time.”
Ainscough says he also remembers Piper to be a fun-loving daughter.
“She was very funny, very cute, a ray of light for sure. She brightened up my life when I met her and when I was around her. She was full of life, full of energy and just wanted to be happy.
“They loved to get going with the makeup, play with toys, they would go on walks, when they had a dog. They would walk a lot with the dog.
“They spent a lot of time together and they always had a good time,” Ainscough said.
A troubled relationship
Trouble was apparently brewing within the family long before Tuesday’s tragedy.
Court documents show the couple wasn’t paying their mortgage, and had defaulted on payments.
There was also a court order for a nesting arrangement after Scarr alleged that Stephenson moved to Alberta with their daughter without her consent in late 2014.
Scarr had blamed that move for her inability to pay the mortgage, and the court ordered Stephenson to return to B.C. with Piper in June of 2015.
—With files from Neetu Garcha and Emily Lazatin
This story has been updated throughout as details were confirmed.