Four houses were damaged including one that burned to the ground in an early morning fire on the 1400 block of Bonniebrook Heights Road on Saturday, Oct. 7.
There were no injuries in the fire and the cause is still being determined, according to Chris Facchin, acting assistant fire chief at Gibsons & District Volunteer Fire Department (GDVFD).
Facchin said the family was woken up by their fire alarm, and that the alarm was the only reason they were able to get outside in time.
The call came in just before 8 a.m. Thanksgiving Saturday and a rapid response from firefighters prevented the blaze from spreading farther. Vegetation all around the property ignited quickly, including a large cedar hedge and an artificial turf lawn on a neighbouring property, said Facchin.
Facchin said that the neighbouring structure to the west received fire damage to its upper section, as well as the roof.
Rob Michael, fire chief at GDVFD, explained that the affected houses were all in close proximity, “Although we had a complete loss on one structure, we had significant saves on the others,” he said.
Thirty-three firefighters responded to the incident, including four firefighters from Roberts Creek Volunteer Fire Department and six from Sechelt Fire Department, said Facchin.
Like a wild animal
Colleen Preston lives two properties down from the house that was destroyed. She described the fire as a wild animal consuming something. “It was just so terrifying. It basically ate the house and spread to the neighbours’. There's four houses involved now.”
Preston said she woke up to a sound that she thought was bears rummaging through garbage, but when she got outside she saw it was her neighbour’s deck crackling in a blaze of fire.
“It took maybe 30 minutes and the whole house was disintegrated."
Preston has known the residents who lost their home for years and said that they are great members of the community. A GoFundMe she created to help support the family has raised $4,550 of a $10,000 goal. A direct e-transfer through Sunshine Coast Credit Union is also available, details can be found on the fundraiser page.
“They're always generous. Every time we were having different kinds of fundraisers, they were always happy to donate,” said Preston. “Just really great neighbours.”
Neighbours respond before crews arrive
In the time before fire crews arrived, Preston and neighbours took it upon themselves to try and prevent the inferno from spreading, spraying the bushes around the neighbour’s house while waiting for firefighters. “The heat was immense and the noise was so loud,” she said.
She added that one of the affected houses had its rooftop vents melt due to the extreme heat of the fire.
“The firefighters were incredible. It was just unbelievable how many first responders were here. And we just all want to really find a way to thank the firefighters and the volunteers,” Preston said. “They basically saved my next-door neighbour's house.”
Jordan Copp is the Coast Reporter’s civic and Indigenous affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.