Fire department doesn’t respond to construction site blaze

People watched as a home-to-be in an area of Strathcona Regional District not serviced by firefighters burned to the ground

  • Dec. 15, 2011 7:00 p.m.

People watched as a home-to-be in an area of Strathcona Regional District (SRD) not serviced by firefighters burned to the ground.

The residence, located in the 5000 block of Race Point Road, was under construction but had a roof, and what doors and windows weren’t installed were covered up with plywood, according to RCMP Sgt. Craig Massey.

Police responded to the fire at 2 a.m. and the blaze was already raging.

“On responding, they (officers) could see the flames actually licking well above the tree tops and so it was fully engulfed,” said Massey.

Because this area is not in the Campbell River Fire Department’s service area firefighters did not attend, according to fire chief Dean Spry.

“Our jurisdiction only allows us to go within the city limits, unless we have an authorized agreement for outside our city boundaries,” said Spry.

Police and neighbours were on scene, but could essentially do nothing to put the fire out, according to Massey.

“Other than some neighbours trying to protect adjoining properties, there wasn’t fire protection in the area,” Massey said, adding that the building burned “well into the next morning” before it was completely destroyed by the fire.

Campbell River city manager Andy Laidlaw said the city has no agreement with SRD to provide fire protection for this area, and does not fight fires in areas with no agreement because of legal and liability issues. He said the responsibility for fire protection does not rest on the city.

“Each area outside the city, whether its an electoral area or a local government, are responsible for providing their own fire services,” said Laidlaw. “They can do that either by having a volunteer fire department, (or) they can do it by having an agreement with another local government to provide that service.

“In fact in this case, (it can) choose not to even have one, but generally I don’t think that’s very common.”

SRD corporate services manager Tom Yates said regional districts differ from municipalities when it comes to fire protection services, and usually wait for residents to ask before implementing anything.

“We don’t really have unfettered authority throughout our district. We have to actually go through a process and seek the consent or approval of the electors that will pay for a service, so typically we tend to be reactive,” Yates explained. “We tend to wait for people to say ‘we would like a certain service to be looked at in our area.’”

Yates said he has not seen a request for fire protection service come from this area since he has been with the regional district – about two years – and as far as he knows none has ever been requested.

Meanwhile, Massey said police have no leads on what started the fire as the total destruction of the building makes the cause of the fire hard to determine.

“With the total elimination of the structure itself causal is very difficult,” said Massey. “Because of the mass destruction – the total inability to glean any type of evidentiary aspects as to the causal nature of it.”

Police ask anyone who may have seen someone or something unusual in the area, or anything relevant to the case to contact Campbell River RCMP.

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