Oyster River Fire Chief Bruce Green says having two major fire events in his little community in one week is “devastating.”
Seemingly hours after leaving the scene of a major fire that took down a duplex on Upland Road Tuesday, the department – entirely made up of community volunteers, other than Green himself – had to get suited up again Thursday night to respond to another inferno in the small, tight-knit community just south of Campbell River.
“We got called at 11:30 Thursday night and when I showed up there were flames shooting through the glass patio sliding door,” Green says. “It was all cedar tongue-and-groove on the inside, so it went up really fast.”
While the cause of Thursday’s fire is still under investigation, Green says, he has “a pretty good idea” as to what happened, “and it’s not being considered suspicious.”
When asked if it may have had anything to do with the season – Christmas lights, candles or other flammable decorations – Green would only say, “it had nothing to do with any of that, from what we’re looking at. I could be proven wrong, though, which is why I’m not prepared to say exactly what the cause was until the investigation is complete.”
There were no injuries sustained during the blaze, but Green says the residents did go to the hospital for smoke inhalation, “just as a precaution, but they got out that same night and I just spoke with the homeowner and everything is just fine – other than the devastation.”
The house is likely a complete write-off, Green says, “but they were fully insured, so their insurance company is looking after them and they have a great network of friends and organizations they’re involved with that are surrounding them. It’s amazing to see how well our small community rallies around stuff like this to make sure the people can proceed as close to normal as possible after something so devastating. It’s an amazing community we live in.”
Green says this event is yet another example of the importance of having working smoke detectors in your home.
“The gentleman who lost his house has said he’ll be our poster child for smoke alarms,” Green says. “He’s convinced that if his smoke alarms weren’t working he wouldn’t be alive. For someone who just lost their home to be praising smoke alarms – well, that speaks volumes.”
And while he also suggests having fire extinguishers in place and charged, he can’t say they would have been any help in this instance.
“Fire extinguishers are great, but there’s a fine line between fight and flight,” Green says. “You don’t want to fight too long and get trapped. You can get entrenched in fighting and then if you lose – it can be bad.”
Green says to have two major structure fires this close together is “very rare.”
“We get fires, sure, but not two major fires in a week,” Green says. “We maybe get two fires like this in a year, so to have two in a week is kind of unheard of for us. All around, I don’t know what it is, it just seems like a bad time. Comox lost one, Cumberland lost three, Chemainus lost one. It’s just a bad time.”
It’s also exhausting, Green says.
“I had firefighters that were here all night until 6:30 a.m., went home, had a shower and then went to their actual jobs for their eight-hour shift,” Green says. “It takes a toll, for sure, but I can’t say enough about how impressed I am with the crew I am fortunate enough to work with out here. They’re outstanding and their dedication is just unbelievable.”