A bookcase built from a handmade cedar gun cabinet and used as a community lending library in Nanaimo, B.C. was deliberately set on fire, police say.

Nanaimo RCMP say the blaze, which occurred Jan. 20, was too intense for local residents to put out with fire extinguishers and destroyed the library.

"It's been quite a blow," said Cheryl Ward, who started the community library with her sister more than a year ago.

bookcase

The lending library before the fire. The library is located near the intersection of Pine and Wentworth Streets. (Cheryl Ward)

"It was a really great neighbourhood place to gather," Ward told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

With plenty of books of her own, Ward decided to create the library — where people could pick up a book for free by dropping one off — using her father's 40-year-old gun cabinet.

Popular in the community

"It was really quite a beautiful little piece, and we thought, well, that will make an awesome little library," she said.

"Our father was a very avid reader and we thought that he would think this was hilarious, that we would re-purpose the gun cabinet to make a library out of it."

Ward said she started the library with about 40 of the family's books. It quickly became popular in the community.

"After that it just took off and we've rarely had to put books in there because so many people in the neighbourhood came by and dropped off books," she said.

"We even had people drop boxes of books off for us to keep it going."

Ward said she discovered the fire on the evening of Jan. 20, and quickly called the fire department.

By the time the fire was put out the bookcase was completely burned, she said.

Ward said she may create another community library in the future, but needs some time before doing so.

Fire deliberately set, say police

Nanaimo RCMP Const. Gary O'Brien said police believe the fire was deliberately set.

O'Brien added that the library was "the focal point" of the neighbourhood.

"Many local children would stop by on their way home from school to select a book," he said in a statement. "It was quite unique and the books provided many hours of reading enjoyment to the young and old alike."

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