Columbia Valley Rural Fire and Rescue Service was called to a home in Windermere Wednesday, February 8th to respond to a house fire on Upper Lakeview Road.
Members of the Windermere Fire Department with the assistance from the Invermere Fire Department, responded to the call at approximately 9:45 p.m., arriving on scene to discover that as much as 25 per cent of the home had already been engulfed in flames, said Jim Miller, fire chief for the Columbia Valley Rural Fire and Rescue.
Being the first on scene, Miller was able to get all three residents of the home and their dogs away from the property before the first engine arrived with the house now half way to being fully engulfed. At that point Miller determined that the house would be a “next area attack” only, meaning that the team’s priority wouldn’t be saving the house but instead protecting neighbouring properties and trees from the fire spreading.
“Our biggest concern then was that it started into the trees and even though it was lots of snow and cold, the heat is pretty intense so it tried spreading into the trees and there’s adjacent buildings, garages and so forth that were the most concerning then,” he said.
Making the fight against the fire all the more difficult was the amount of snow that had fallen in the past week in addition to typically challenging winter conditions.
“Oh gosh the guys were fighting deep snow, a foot of snow or more, trying to drag hose through it and everything wants to freeze up,” he said. “The areas around the trucks you’re working on, there’s always water coming from somewhere, it’s slipperier than heck, guys are getting wet and cold, getting exhausted—it’s a grind.”
In situations such as this where there is no way to save the home, Miller said it’s important the team take safety first for themselves before worrying about the fire.
“We aren’t going in to do an interior attack or trying to rescue someone so it’s a little easier but it’s a real grind for sure. Their safety is more concerning than anything so we just save what we can.”
In total 14 firefighters responded to the call with the help of the Invermere Fie Department who worked until after 1:30 a.m. to make sure all the hot spots around the property were dealt with. Miller returned to the scene the following day to conduct an investigation into the cause of the fire but said that the cause is still unclear at this point.
“It’s still under investigation, nothing is determined as of yet, but nothing is suspicious by any means,” he said. “It’s probably going to be deemed undetermined, my gut feeling because you can’t pinpoint where it actually started.”
With this being the first house fire of 2017 the detachment has responded to, Miller wanted to express his thanks to all the volunteers who braved the cold and the flames to ensure everyone was able to get out safely and keep the fire contained.
“At the end of the day everyone got out safely, there was no injuries that’s the good outcome,” he said. “The bad outcome is the house was toast but it was toast before we got there.”