Quesnel fire department chief reflects on double fire day

Quesnel Firefighters work to extinguish a house fire on Tuesday, Nov. 9. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)Quesnel Firefighters work to extinguish a house fire on Tuesday, Nov. 9. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel Firefighters work to extinguish a house fire on Tuesday, Nov. 9. They would receive assistance from Kersley’s fire department to extinguish this fire, as all other area departments were helping extinguish the West Fraser Log Fire which was detected earlier in the day. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)Quesnel Firefighters work to extinguish a house fire on Tuesday, Nov. 9. They would receive assistance from Kersley’s fire department to extinguish this fire, as all other area departments were helping extinguish the West Fraser Log Fire which was detected earlier in the day. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel Firefighters work to extinguish a house fire on Tuesday, Nov. 9. They would receive assistance from Kersley’s fire department to extinguish this fire, as all other area departments were helping extinguish the West Fraser Log Fire which was detected earlier in the day. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)Quesnel Firefighters work to extinguish a house fire on Tuesday, Nov. 9. They would receive assistance from Kersley’s fire department to extinguish this fire, as all other area departments were helping extinguish the West Fraser Log Fire which was detected earlier in the day. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel Firefighters work to extinguish a house fire on Tuesday, Nov. 9. They would receive assistance from Kersley’s fire department to extinguish this fire, as all other area departments were helping extinguish the West Fraser Log Fire which was detected earlier in the day.(Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)Quesnel Firefighters work to extinguish a house fire on Tuesday, Nov. 9. They would receive assistance from Kersley’s fire department to extinguish this fire, as all other area departments were helping extinguish the West Fraser Log Fire which was detected earlier in the day.(Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)
Quesnel Firefighters work to extinguish a house fire on Tuesday, Nov. 9. They would receive assistance from Kersley’s fire department to extinguish this fire, as all other area departments were helping extinguish the West Fraser Log Fire which was detected earlier in the day. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)Quesnel Firefighters work to extinguish a house fire on Tuesday, Nov. 9. They would receive assistance from Kersley’s fire department to extinguish this fire, as all other area departments were helping extinguish the West Fraser Log Fire which was detected earlier in the day. (Cassidy Dankochik Photo - Quesnel Cariboo Observer)

Fire Departments from around Quesnel had to rally together on Tuesday, Nov. 9.

The Quesnel Volunteer Fire Department had to call in departments from West Fraser, Barlow Creek, Bouchie Lake and Kersley to assist in extinguishing a large log yard fire at a West Fraser log yard and a residential structure fire later in the day. The Ten Mile Lake Fire Department was on call to assist if any other fires popped up.

“It was pretty challenging,” Quesnel Fire Chief Ron Richert said, adding 30 of the department’s 37 volunteers responded.

Richert said it was the biggest log fire he can remember in Quesnel.

“We’ve had some smaller ones through the years, but they were extinguished straight away,” he said.

“The wind was a contributing factor for that.”

READ MORE: Ron Richert named Quesnel’s new fire chief

Wind gusts of up to 50 km/h were forecasted for Quesnel and it remained windy well into the evening.

Richert said while the wind made fighting the fire a challenge, crews were at times able to use it to their advantage, by extending the distance their sprinklers could cover.

Firefighters even had to extinguish a small fire in a forested area west of the log yard, which was started by falling embers. The log yard is located between the Quesnel Cemetery and the former C&C Mill on Quesnel Hixon Road.

“The biggest thing was structures, and embers falling where structures were,” Richert said.

“We had embers going all the way to Enbridge, and we were worried about the industrial side if the wind changed.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Battling the West Fraser Log Yard fire

An investigation into the cause of the fire by West Fraser is ongoing.

When firefighters first arrived, only a few hundred logs were on fire, but initial attempts to contain the blaze to a single stack of logs were quickly abandoned.

“When you get a fire like that, it’s just too hot… there’s no amount of water at that point that can stop that,” Richert said.

“You’ve just got to hope for containment.”

While a ladder truck with a hose on top briefly attempted to fight the blaze, a change of tactics was needed.

“We weren’t far into the containment when we realized we had to pull back some of our units because it was spreading so rapidly,” Richert said.

“We got a different perspective when we were on a higher elevation. We could look down and see the magnitude, and see how many logs were actually involved.”

VIDEO: Fire crews working to prevent spread of West Fraser log yard fire

While crews were battling the peak of the log yard fire at around 5 p.m., they were called to a structure fire in West Quesnel. Crews from assisting fire departments arrived to find a residential house completely ablaze on Willis Street.

The embattled crews worked quickly to protect neighbouring homes, and minutes after their arrival, the worst was over. Quesnel RCMP say they arrested a Quesnel woman for arson related to the fire.

READ MORE: Quesnel woman arrested for arson after fire destroys home

“(Crews) were able to knock it down quick and prevent any damage to neighbouring homes,” Richert said. “They had the fire knocked down in a short time.”

Even as the Willis Street fire was extinguished, the orange glow from the log yard fire was visible on the horizon to onlookers.

Richert said the log yard fire burned intensely until around 2 a.m., and had somewhat died down by the next morning. It wouldn’t be fully extinguished until Thursday, Nov. 11.

Richert added the fire has accelerated previous plans for the area’s fire department to practise together to better co-operate during mutual aid situations.

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