House a “total write off” after fire

Trent Ernst, Editor


At 3:30 in the morning, on Sunday, September 14, The Tumbler Ridge Fire Department was called out to a house fire on Willow Drive.

When they arrived, they discovered the front of the house was nearly fully engulfed in flames, with the exterior of two walls and the roof and the attic on fire.

Fire Chief Matt Treit says crews proceeded with a defensive attack, staying well back from the fire and knocking down the flames with water. “We had gotten the sense that there were no people in the building, so we stayed outside to spray water to knock down the fire. It took about 15 to 20 minutes to get the fire under control,” says Treit. “That’s when the hard work starts, as you have to start ripping apart walls to find every little hot spot.

Once the fire was under control, Fire Fighters Brandon Braam and Don Ross were sent in to check out the interior, but shortly after entering, the ceiling began to collapse, and they were pulled out again.

When the ceiling was down, the two fire fighters were sent in again, where they discovered a dog, unconscious in the basement. “We used our pet oxygen mask on it,” says Treit. “This was the first time we’ve ever used it. Former bylaw officer Teresa Vandale bought it with her own money and donated it to the department a few years back, so this was the first chance we’ve had to use it.”

The fire was so hot that the plastic on the truck in the driveway started to melt, as well as the siding on the neighbour’s house.  “The vehicle suffered minor damage; some of the plastic fixtures suffered heat damage, but the paint didn’t blister,” says Treit. “In the big scheme of things it’s a pretty easy fix.”

The house, however, is a complete write-off, says Treit. Including content, the damage has been valued at over $561,000.

By the time the fire was completely out, The Tumbler Ridge Fire Department had spent five hours battling the blaze and extinguishing hot spots.

Later on, they returned to investigate to see what the cause of the blaze was. They got a rude surprise while checking out the electrical service. “BC Hydro had turned power off to the wrong house, so while we were digging around, there was a big bang and a giant arc flash, and we had to jump back. Apparently, the neighbouring house had been shut down, and the house that had burned down was still live. When the guy from BC Hydro came back he said it had been mislabeled at the source. Until you get into situations like this, you don’t know. It has probably been mislabeled for thirty years and nobody knew.”

Treit says the cause of the fire looks to be electrical in nature, but that has yet to be verified. “The insurance company brought in an electrical engineer, and he looked over the scene and took some items back to his lab to look at it to try and determine an exact cause. There’s no update as to exact cause yet, and I suspect it will be a little while as they go through a CSI-type process of inspecting every wire under a microscope.”