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Downed power lines, ruptured gas line complicate firefighting in Campbell River

Fire crews arrived at the blaze to the sound of several explosions, likely caused by propane tanks.
Firefighters respond to a house fire in Campbell River on Twillingate Road on Friday. VIA CAMPBELL RIVER PROFESSIONAL FIRE FIGHTERS IAFF 1668

Campbell River firefighters were able to stop a fire from spreading beyond two houses in the Willow Point neighbourhood despite a complex scene that involved downed power lines, venting propane tanks and a ruptured gas line.

Emergency responders received multiple calls about a structure fire on Twillingate Road shortly before noon Friday.

Firefighters found one house fully engulfed in flames and a neighbouring house also on fire.

Acting Fire Chief Stephanie Bremer thanked the public for staying away while firefighters battled the “complex fire,” which affected power lines in the area.

Fire Capt. John Baker said crews arrived to the sound of several explosions, likely caused by propane tanks.

B.C. Ambulance, B.C. Hydro, FortisBC, police and city public works crews were all at the scene, he said.

Twillingate Road was closed for most of Friday, reopening around 7 p.m.

Due to the warm weather, firefighters had to work in cycles to prevent overheating, Baker said. An “all call” dispatch was issued for the fire, pulling in both on-call firefighters and off-duty career staff.

Security guards have been dispatched to the site for the weekend and the fire investigation is expected to start on Monday, he said, adding that both homes received “substantial damage” and are now uninhabitable as a result of the fire. There were no reported injuries.

The resident of one of the homes, an 82-year-old woman, was helped to safety by a passing driver.

Rita Hall told CHEK News she was in her living room when she smelled the smoke and spotted the flames.

“I heard this bang and all my lights went out. I thought, ‘that’s strange,’ and then I smelled smoke,” she said.

Hall said she walked around her house and saw what she described as “a little flame.”

“Then it started accelerating to get larger, so I went to my door and started hollering for help. I yelled about four times,” she said.

A woman who was driving by heard Hall’s calls for help, stopped her car and pulled the senior to safety.

A young family that lives next door also escaped unharmed, but Hall said her three cats are missing.

The union representing Campbell River firefighters, Local 1668 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said firefighting efforts were complicated by nearby propane tanks that were venting due to high heat, and a ruptured natural gas line.

The fire was fought defensively due to heavy fire conditions, with an aim of protecting neighbouring homes, the union said Saturday in a statement on social media.

“Strong tactical decisions and hard work by all the crews prevented further damage,” it said.

The Oyster River Fire Department provided support and responded to four calls in the city while Campbell River firefighters were busy with the Twillingate fire, the union said.

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