By Ryan King
Community News Reporter
PORT AUX BASQUES — At about 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Mar. 8 the Channel-Port aux Basques Volunteer Fire Department received a call for a house fire on First Avenue. Fire Chief Jerry Musseau said that 20 firefighters responded and quickly extinguished the blaze.
“It was only about five or six minutes after that we were on scene with two pumper trucks and our support unit,” said Musseau.
The firefighters remained on scene for about two hours. Musseau said that the high winds at the time was worrisome.
“I got to say that was my biggest concern when I was en route, the weather conditions, because it was very high winds and I’d say they might have been gusting about over 100 kilometres an hour,” said Musseau. “And when I was pulling up to the house that was on fire, then I saw some flames coming out through the windows – the windows on the main floor – I was really concerned then because with the wind, and there was houses on both sides, they were fairly close together to the one that was on fire. So it was a concern for us.”
Despite the wind, no one was hurt and flames did not spread to neighbouring homes.
“This time of year when you’re spraying the water around and that, you got to expect it getting slippery conditions under your footings, and so on, in the area that you’re working, but nobody got hurt at the time so that was great,” said Musseau.
Unfortunately the house itself did not fare as well.
“The structure received a bit of fire damage, and fire damage underneath in the basement a bit, and upstairs into one of the rooms,” said Musseau. “And the entire house had substantial smoke damage.”
Musseau praised the work of the firefighters who tackled the fire during challenging condition.
“Everything went well,” said Musseau. “And what’s important is that no one got an injured.”
Linda Davis-Kettle is a resident at the home and said that a fire inspector visited the residence on Mar. 10 to determine the source of the fire.
“It was an electrical fire but when I was speaking to him he was still trying to determine the starting place. The fire seems to have started in the basement on the right side of the house as you face the house. It then continued up through the vent hole for the dryer above,” stated Davis-Kettle.
Davis-Kettle was first alerted to the fire when her son smelled something from the living room.
“He was walking down the hallway and went to the laundry room. He noticed that the floor was hot and as he walked toward the dryer the floor was getting hotter. When he touched the dryer it was hot, he moved it and flames shot up from the basement and smoke started coming up to the room.”
Her son then ran into her room shouting there was a fire.
“We got up and I grabbed my phone and purse. I also grabbed a box of photographs, but thought I was being foolish so dropped them on the floor and finally rushed out of the room, closing the door behind me in hopes of limiting the damage. My son was continually shouting to hurry because the house was going to go.”
Her son then pointed to the laundry room where fire was shooting up and smoke was curling across the ceiling.
“Sadly my grandson also saw it and was traumatized. I finally realized that the situation was extremely serious. We then rushed to the front hallway. I grabbed my winter coat while my son dressed his son. I grabbed his snow pants. He started to put on his boots and realized they were odd and put on the right boots. Meanwhile I ran into the living room and grabbed the cordless phone and dialed 911.”
She made sure to grab the cordless house phone instead of her cell since it would be easier to use in an emergency to quickly dial emergency services. Davis-Kettle told the operator that there were two adults and one child and that they were out of the house.
“We got in our cars with my grandson put in mine. We moved the cars up the road. My son went to turn off the propane tank which was filled the day before. I ran to the next door neighbour’s house to let them know about the fire. They were asleep so I had to bang on their door a number of times. I then noticed my dog running down the road frantic. I also saw a man with paramedic gear on walking towards me. He was our neighbour, Jeff. He asked if I wanted him to put Jax (my dog, neighbourhood gangster and lifelong jailbreaker) in my car. I agreed and he gently picked Jax up and carried him to my vehicle. I checked on Alexander, who was crying. His dad was there and I went to my other next door neighbour’s house and started banging on their door repeatedly and finally resorted to kicking it. They looked at me like I was a crazy woman, which I probably was by then. I told them about the fire as flankers started coming over towards their bridge.”
Neighbour Wade Francis, then came from his house and told her that the fire trucks were on the way.
“He is a volunteer firefighter himself.”
Davis-Kettle praised the response of the fire department, noting the harsh weather they had to endure. She particularly appreciated, “Their dedication, professionalism, their kindness and efficiency.”
However, there was little respite for the fire department as they received another call the next day to attend a scene on Regional Street, with eight fire fighters responding.
“We got a call around 10:30 or 10:35, somewhere around that morning, that there was a small fire downstairs it said, and the fire is now out, and there’s smoke into the lady’s apartment that lived upstairs. We went there and checked it was out, and when we got there we went downstairs, and apparently what it was they were cooking onto the stove and somehow it caught fire – what they were cooking on the stove – and filled the apartment full of smoke downstairs, which also went up to the upstairs apartment,” said Musseau.
Thanks to the quick actions of the downstairs residents, the fire was stopped before it could cause much damage.
“So the guys downstairs had put it out with their fire extinguisher, there that was burning on the stove. So basically that was it. So we talked to the lady upstairs who called it in, because she had a small baby and was concerned about smoke and that. She had the windows and that opened upstairs, and everything was cleared up with the smoke when we got there,” said Musseau.
Fewer firefighters responded to this call since the fire was already extinguished.
“She clearly stated on the call there was no fire, just had smoke into her apartment,” Musseau said. “Actually she said that she wanted somebody to give her a call, but we just responded out there anyway just in case we need it to use our fan or something to clear the smoke. But like I said, the window was open, and everything was cleared away.”
Attending the scene was a precautionary measure, and the number of firefighters responding was because the caller had clearly stated there was no fire.
“She actually even said on the page that she’d ‘like for somebody to give us a call.’ But we went out anyway, you know, rather than waste the time in calling and see, because we had fans aboard in case we needed it,” explained Musseau.
Unlike the previous scene, there was no significant damage at this residence. There were no injuries.
“There was smoke downstairs and the top of the stove had a little bit burned up, the pans were burned up, that was it. No structure damage,” said the Chief. “I guess they wanted to take the precautions because upstairs they had a little child, and they didn’t want the building to remain full of smoke or anything.”
Mari Macdonald is the resident who called the fire department and feels fortunate that the resident downstairs caught the fire in time, since everyone in the house was asleep, including her eight-month-old baby. In fact, she was just about to take a nap herself when she heard her neighbour banging on her door.
“All I know is that somehow, something caught on fire on the stove while one of the roommates was asleep, and if it wasn’t for the other roommate downstairs coming home at the right time and getting it put out we might have all died.”
Macdonald stated that the apartment downstairs was filled with smoke, and it was impossible to see further than two feet.
“My apartment seems to be fine, and the downstairs apartment is all right that I could see, besides the stove and things that were on it, and I’m guessing a lot of smoke damage.”
The impact to Macdonald apartment was just the smell of smoke. She expressed thanks for the quick actions of the resident downstairs.
“That guy is a hero as far as I’m concerned.”