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Sechelt Fire Department has faced ‘abnormal’ number of house fires over the last month

Two homes were lost within one week and investigations are under way.

There was no loss of life in two separate house fires in Sechelt last week.

Sechelt Fire Chief, Trevor Pike said that including the Burley Place fire on Nov. 15, the department has responded to three structure fires over the last month, an abnormal amount for Sechelt.

Mason Road home lost

At 7:15 p.m., Nov. 28, the Sechelt Fire Department responded to a call out to a single-family residence on the 5800 block of Mason Road.

Twenty-eight Sechelt Fire Department firefighters responded to the call, along with four of their fire trucks.

The structure was fully involved in the fire when the department arrived, Pike explained. 

He said that water supply was a challenge in this response due to the large distance between the structure and the nearest fire hydrant. 

All residents were outside when fire crews arrived, and the owner of the home was taken to Sechelt Hospital by ambulance for burns on their hands.

While it was a full-loss fire, Pike said that the fire department saved a shop and some horse shelters that were near the structure.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. 

Pike said that because of the extensive damage to the house, the cause will be difficult to determine.

Uplands Road fire

Dec. 5 at 3:20 p.m., Sechelt Fire Department was paged out to a working structure fire on Uplands Road.

Pike said it was confirmed that all occupants were outside upon arrival, and that “heavy fire conditions” were consuming approximately 30 per cent of the structure.

It was determined that this structure was entirely propane-heated, which presented additional challenges to fire crews.

“It was determined by the first hand officer that the fire was being intensified by two large venting propane tanks that were located on the rear of the structure,” said Pike. 

In addition to the large outdoor tanks, there were three separate 60-pound tanks inside the house.

Pike explained that when these tanks heat up enough, a pressure release valve starts to vent excess pressure. 

“The unfortunate part of that is when there's fire involved, that propane that’s being exhausted catches on fire, and it acts like a big blowtorch,” he said. “In this particular case, that fire was blowing on to the house and just acting like a big blow torch against the side of the house, which intensified the fire conditions.”

Pike explained firefighters must handle propane fires extremely carefully and keep tanks from getting too hot.

Extinguishing the fire too quickly creates excess amounts of propane in the air which can lead to a second explosion, and there are chances boiling liquid expanding vapour explosions to occur, which Pike explained can be devastating. 

He said that crews went into heavy extension and overhaul mode, a response that took two hours.

Twenty-five Sechelt firefighters attended the blaze, along with four firetrucks.

Assistance was provided by Halfmoon Bay Fire Department, which provided six additional firefighters and one of their trucks, and the Roberts Creek Volunteer Fire Department came into Sechelt to provide coverage for the district in the event of a second fire. 

While cause is being determined, the structure has been deemed unsafe to enter for investigational work for the time being.

Once the insurance company arrives, the structure will be stabilized using special equipment and then the investigation can continue.

Jordan Copp is the Coast Reporter’s civic and Indigenous affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.