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Increased number of fire calls

The Channel-Port aux Basques Volunteer Fire Department, RCMP and ambulance responded to a house fire on Regional Street on Sunday evening, May 8. – © Rosalyn Roy/Wreckhouse Press

By Jaymie L. White Special to Wreckhouse Press

PORT AUX BASQUES – Two people have been uprooted from their home with little more than the clothes on their backs following yet another house fire last Sunday evening. On May 8, the home, located on Regional Street, suffered heavy damage as a result of the blaze.

Todd Strickland, Deputy Fire Chief with the Port Aux Basques Fire Department said the call came in at 7:36 p.m. from a neighbour and 12-13 firefighters responded.

“En route to the fire, we could see heavy smoke, and once on scene there was fire coming out of the right side of the house. Upon size up there was damage from the fire to the right side of the house that included the patio, door, vinyl siding. An attack crew was sent in and got the fire under control in about 5 minutes. Smoke and fire were seen coming out of an eave, which was also quickly knocked down and brought everything under control. A vent on the roof was spilling some smoke so the attic hatch was opened and areas of concern were sprayed down. Crews stayed on scene approximately 45 minutes to an hour watching for hot spots. It was determined that the origin of the fire was outside of the house, but the ignition source was undetermined.”

The RCMP offered the following statement in response to email inquiries:

“On May 8th, 2022, shortly after 7:30 pm, Channel-Port aux Basques RCMP responded to the report of a residential fire at a home on Regional Street. Two occupants of the home escaped without injuries. Firefighters attended the scene and put out the blaze. The home was extensively damaged. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.”

This fire was not the only blaze this week. The Channel-Port Aux Basques Volunteer Fire Department responded to a grass fire the next afternoon.

Strickland said Fire Chief Jerry Musseau called about a grass fire at 5:08 p.m., and smoke was visible when the department arrived.

“The fire started out as a controlled fire in a fire pit and it was reported that flankers or sparks came out of the fire pit and caught the nearby grass on fire. The low grass that burned was very dry at the time of the fire and it burnt an area of roughly 50 by 30 feet. There was reported to be a little breeze of wind, which was helping to push the fire to neighbouring houses. Water was used to extinguish the fire, which was under control and extinguished within minutes of arrival. Approximately 10 firefighters turned up for the call and they stayed on scene for approximately 20 minutes.”

With a noticeable increase in fire calls over the last month, Strickland also remembers other times when many fire calls have come in, during a short amount of time, and that it probably took place around the same time of year.

“Back a few years ago, we used to get a lot of calls for a ‘mutual assist’ in the Codroy Valley. They would have lots of grass fires and things like that, and actually a few more than we have seen these past few weeks, so, it has happened in the past. It’s not the norm, but it has happened this time of year, mainly because of grass fires.”

Grass fires can happen for a number of reasons.

“Mainly because of somebody burning something in their backyard and it is dry so the grass catches. Not necessarily is it 100 per cent grass fires, but that’s what it turns into from whatever it started out as,” said Strickland. “We’ve had some wet weather in the past, but as of late with the nice weather, things are slowly coming out from the winter thaw and some things are getting dried out. Also people are wanting to clean up their properties, tidy up their properties, so with that, unfortunately there is sometimes backyard burning and things like that which can sometimes contribute to grass fires and/or forest fires and house fires. There are numerous things that come into play. There’s no single thing. It’s a few things rolled into one that make an almost ‘perfect storm.’”

Strickland said the biggest issue with a grass fire in town is threat to any of the surrounding structures.

“Our biggest issue in town, with grass fires, is the nearby homes, garages, sheds, things like that. So that’s our number one priority, of course, when we get there, is the property safe? Is the property safe next door, if there’s no chance of saving the current thing that is on fire.”

Strickland said the fire department mainly does structural firefighting, which is different than woodland firefighting.

“This time of year seems to be a busier time of year for us. We’re not fully equipped to deal with grass fires. What I mean by that is grass fires, as well as forest fires, would come under woodland firefighting which we don’t do. We basically do structural firefighting, but we still put the wet stuff on the hot stuff, which works out and goes a long way. We can do a very good response once we get there.”

Strickland said there is one important thing people can do to be more vigilant.

“Be more aware, more cautious. If you’re having any type of fire, make sure that when you’re finished with the fire and whatever you are burning is burnt, completely douse the fire with water. Just because the fire is out doesn’t mean there isn’t some smoldering or high heat left at the scene. If there is still a lot of heat there and something blows on that area that is easily combustible, it can catch fire and re-ignite very quickly.”

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