The Sechelt fire department is reminding Coast residents to dispose of ashes properly after soot cleaned from a chimney started a house fire in West Sechelt on Dec. 21.
"An old fellow had cleaned his chimney out the day before and put his ashes outside in a plastic bucket beside his house and it eventually melted through and got his outside wall on fire and burnt through to the inside, up the inside wall and into his attic," said Sechelt Fire Chief Bill Higgs. "He was there, but he was trying to put it out himself and he wouldn't call the fire department. He'd been pulling away at things and running garden hoses and stuff because he just comes from that generation where they do stuff themselves as opposed to the rest of us who call for help whenever we need it."
Higgs said the delay in calling made for a much bigger fire once the department arrived on scene at about 2 p.m.
"The fire had a real head start on us, but luckily we were at the fire station when the call came in," Higgs said.
The firefighters had just finished helping at a motor vehicle accident scene near Porpoise Bay Provincial Park. Members were tasked with clearing an area for a helicopter to land on Porpoise Bay beach in order to transport one of the crash victims to a Vancouver area hospital.
"We just got back to the hall and got cleaned up and then this call came in so we had a crew underway real quick."
First responders were onsite at the home on Norwest Bay Road near McCourt Road within minutes.
"We used our firefighting tools to breach a hole in the ceiling and got a couple of good shots in there and got the fire down and then the panic was off and we could fall back and regroup," Higgs said. "Sometimes there's a big opportunity to do salvage work and in this case there's absolutely no water in the house at all, but there was about to be if we kept spraying water on the attic. So we got the furniture moved away from the area and tarped it all up and then we were able to get back in there and do some more overhaul work, which tends to cause a mess inside."
The fire department was able to save most of the man's belongings from fire and water damage, but noted he will likely need to replace the roof of his home and do some other repair work to the wall that caught fire.
"But essentially all of his prized stuff is still fine, so we were happy about that," Higgs said.
Higgs reminds people to dispose of their ashes in a metal can and to cover the ashes with water to ensure they are fully extinguished.
Higgs also urges people who have fire concerns to call the department sooner, rather than later.
"Call the fire department early. We'd rather be there and get turned around than get calls late, and if people are unsure and they feel like they just want to talk to someone, every department on the Coast maintains a 24/7 duty officer that you can call on a non-emergency basis," Higgs said.
Call the fire department's general phone number to get in contact with the duty officer at any time.
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