A Maple Ridge trio has much to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.
Three people reportedly escaped with little more than the clothes on their back – and their lives – after the livingroom in their downtown townhouse was consumed by flames Monday morning.
They were fortunate to get out safely, but the family pets – cats and guinea pigs – were not as lucky, said Maple Ridge fire chief Howard Exner. Unfortunately, he said, the animals perished in the blaze.
Maple Ridge firefighters were called to the 11700-block of 225th Street around 10:30 on Monday morning, arriving to find smoke pouring out of the older two-storey townhouse building.
One of the occupants attempted to extinguish the fire, Exner explained. And firefighters were able to finish knocking down the flames – keeping the fire contained to just the one room.
“They did a good job of holding the fire and stopping her… They did a really good job,” said Exner.
Unfortunately, while the flames were kept to the one room, the rest of the unit did suffer “extensive” smoke damage and he couldn’t comment on how soon the family might be able to return.
In the meantime, residents in the adjoining townhouse units – including some families with kids – were forced out while crews worked to overhaul the fire-damaged suite and check to ensure the blaze hadn’t spread.
Several people were checked out by paramedics on scene. A male occupant in the burned suite, who tried to extinguish the fire, was sent to hospital “as a precaution.”
“He did breath in some smoke,” Exner explained.
The exact cause of the blaze is still unknown, but the chief confirmed witness reports that a space heater “could possibly” be the source. He insisted, however, that it was too early in the investigation to confirm.
“I can’t say 100 per cent for certain, that that’s the exact cause of it. We’re still looking at a few items here. I can’t really say it was the space heater, right now,” Exner elaborated, this fire is believed to be accidental.
One of the busiest long weekend in a long time
Maple Ridge’s career and volunteer firefighters were all kept busy on the holiday weekend.
The downtown blaze was the fourth fire in Maple Ridge in less than 24 hours.
“It’s been a pretty busy weekend,” Exner said.
Around 1 a.m. the same morning – Monday – a large barn burned in the 24900-block of 112th Avenue, near Lockwood Street.
“It was well advanced by the time we arrived,” Exner said, noting they did not receive an exact address until they arrived on scene. The report came from a resident who spotted the flames from their Carmichael Avenue home on a hillside overhead.
The roof and walls of the 1,800-square-foot, older barn were collapsing when fire crews arrived on site, and they immediately went into defence mode, successfully keeping it from spreading to a nearby home and recreational vehicle, the chief explained.
There were no animals or hay in the barn. At this time, Exner said, he’s uncertain what the barn was being used for, but noted it hadn’t been used for farming in “a long time.”
Given the location, he said his crew had to lay down an unusually long stretch of hose in order to hook up to the closest hydrant some 2,000 feet away. By comparison, he said, many of the fires they fight required closer to 200 feet of hose.
The cause of the barn fire, plus a few others this weekend, are still under investigation, Exner added.
That includes the cause of an attached garage fire, which was destroyed at around 6 a.m. Monday morning in the 25500-block of 130th Avenue.
Firefighters arrived to discover “heavy fire showing,” forcing them to concentrate their initial efforts on knocking down the flames from the outside.
It, too, is believed to be “accidental in nature,” Exner said, noting it’s still under investigation.
Everyone in the house was evacuated, and no one was injured.
The blaze caused significant damage to the garage and “heavy smoke” damage to the rest of the older house, Exner concluded. He’s not expecting the occupants to move back in too soon.
There were also numerous fire-related calls on Sunday, including one involving a dryer and another involving a car.
Plus, another garage fire pulled fire crews out just before lunch on Sunday, this one in the 22100-block of 126th Avenue. This one was not as severe.
In this case, a fire had started in a ballast and spread into the joists in the ceiling. When firefighters arrived they could see light smoke showing from the garage, and like the townhouse fire, an occupant in the home had attempted to extinguished it before emergency crews arrived.
Again, as was the case in Monday’s downtown blaze, the homeowner suffered smoke inhalation while trying to put out the fire. But he was treated on scene, and did not require hospitalization, Exner said.
Damage was minimal and fire crews assisted in clean up, using fans to help ventilate smoke from the garage and the rest of the house.
While teams were deployed to the ballast incident, another call came in for a crash in the 12400-block of 240th Street.
In that case, a vehicle went off the road and smashed into a pole, severing the pole and causing it to collapse onto the car.
Fortunately, Exner said, it was not a hydro pole and the driver was able to get out of the vehicle on their own, before teams arrived.
Admittedly, this busy long weekend did cause “a real stretch on resources,” Exner said, noting that paid-on-call members were required to augment the three full-time teams already on duty.
“We had to page out quite a few people, as well,” he added, commenting further on the higher than normal volume of calls.
“Typically in Maple Ridge, our weekends are usually quite quiet in nature… we don’t usually have a lot of heavy calls on long weekends. But this time we certainly did.”