The Quesnel Volunteer Fire Department has a new multi-purpose rescue truck this year, which it used to respond to multiple fire calls during the cold snap just before Christmas. (Tracey Roberts photo — Quesnel Observer)

The Quesnel Volunteer Fire Department has a new multi-purpose rescue truck this year, which it used to respond to multiple fire calls during the cold snap just before Christmas. (Tracey Roberts photo — Quesnel Observer)

Quesnel Volunteer Fire Department discover fatality following structure fire Dec. 21

Cold weather caused spate of fires in Quesnel leading up to Christmas

A structure fire claimed the life of one person in the week leading up to Christmas.

The home, located on Gook Road, was completely destroyed in the Dec. 21 blaze.

“The fire was fully involved when we arrived so we couldn’t do an interior attack, we had to do a defensive attack from the outside,” said Quesnel Volunteer Fire Department (QVFD) chief Ron Richert. “We didn’t have confirmation there was somebody in there, but the neighbours told us there could possibly be someone home.”

It wasn’t confirmed until the next day, when firefighters and other authorities could gain access to the remains of the structure.

“Basically the building was a total loss. It was fully involved when we got there,” Richert said. The home in question was a double-wide modular home. The QVFD was able to apply fire suppression such that no adjacent buildings were harmed by the intense heat.

The victim’s identity has not been released.

The fire department also responded to other fires during the cold snap.

“Yeah, people are thawing frozen pipes and things like that, and we had a chimney fire as well, so five calls within the period of a day – four structures and a chimney,” said Richert.

Two of the call-outs were mutual aid situations where the QFD attended as helpers of the main response departments.

One of the calls was to West Fraser’s Quesnel Plywood operation, but that fire was extinguished by employees before the fire department arrived.

A minor fire happened as well on Elliott Street.

The fatal structure fire itself required the QVFD to call in mutual aid support from the Kersley Volunteer Fire Department – a tender truck and two personnel attended from Kersely.

During all the fires the cold created some challenging conditions.

“We definitely had some challenges. It isn’t easy to fight a fire when it is -37C, -38C out like it was,” Richert said. “We did have some freezing up, and we had to keep the pumps free and clear and running. That was a bit of a challenge. You have to keep your hoses flowing. If you’re not using them, you have to keep them at a trickle. You try to open your valves, within your pump, to prevent them from freezing. We persevered and it all worked out.”

The Gook Road incident required two pages for QVFD members to come help, in addition to the Kersley mutual aid. For many departments, when high call numbers occur, it puts a strain on volunteers’ abilities to respond each time with the required numbers and zest.

QVFD is in a better position, having four professionals involved in the operations, and a force of more than 30 volunteers. January is scheduled to have a recruitment campaign for Quesnel, and the small towns’ departments are also looking for firefighter volunteers.

Read more: Frigid weather triggered fires across the Quesnel region


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