A volunteer firefighter and her husband from the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island have lost everything to a house fire.
On the night of Saturday, June 8 the Sahtlam fire department was called to a fire in the attic of a home on old Cowichan Lake Road.
“When the call came in it was well underway inside where it couldn’t be seen and as soon as our firefighter, who lives there, noticed it and investigated it, she called it in right away,” said Sahtlam fire chief Randy Busch.
Volunteer firefighter and local mail carrier Lona Maas made the call.
Shortly after her fellow firefighters arrived, the decision was made to call for help from the Lake Cowichan and Duncan departments.
Busch explained that given the location of the house and the type of fire they were looking at, they knew they’d need help with water.
“It doesn’t take very long to spread and getting inside an attic type fire is difficult. Part of it was accessing the house,” he added. “It was tough to get in so we had to stage a little bit further back and tried to work around it. We wanted to hit it hard and get water on it as quick as we could, that takes a lot of water, quick.”
Duncan and Lake Cowichan crews worked to shuttle water from hydrants up and down the rural road.
There was another reason for the mutual aid request, too.
“We had to make sure it was all the exposures and that’s another reason for the quick call out,” he explained.
With a lot of other materials and many trees on the property, combined with extremely dry weather, there was a fear of the flames spreading.
The crews worked through the night but by the next morning heavy machinery was brought in to demolish what remained in an effort to douse the hot spots.
“It’s my understanding is that it will be a total loss,” Busch said. “They had to bring in an excavator to open up parts of the house that we couldn’t get at. There’s substantial damage there.”
Busch said it stung to know the home was that of a colleague.
“It was big-time hard,” he said. “Everybody was obviously quite concerned and quite focused on what they were doing to try to do what you can.”
The community has rallied to help the Maases, however. There’s already a GoFundMe campaign aimed at helping the couple get back on their feet. Visit https://www.gofundme.com/al-and-lona-maas-fire-fund to donate.
Donations are also being accepted at the Sahtlam fire hall.