Rembering a blast from the past

Theresa McManus

I recently stumbled across this photo while searching our archives – and thought it would be a timely Throwback Thursday item as Halloween nears.

New Westminster firefighter Charles Calogiros hadn’t been working in fire prevention too long when he was called out to investigate a rocket landing on a local residence. I’m not sure if he’s still called Rocketman by his fellow New West firefighters, but it was a moniker he got after investigating this unusual call.

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Here’s the original article I wrote for the Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2006 issue of The Record.

Missile hits Queen's Park roof

A rocket has damaged a Regina Street roof, but its residents were unharmed.
Pat Hall was gardening on Wednesday, Sept. 13 when she looked toward the house and saw a rocket protruding from the roof.
"It is two-and-a-half feet long, plastic and heavy cardboard construction," said fire inspector Charles Calogiros. "It penetrated the roof six-and-a-half-inches - through the shingles, through the plywood."
The tip of the missile - the label actually states it is a guided missile - sustained no damage. The homeowners say the missile must have been shot into their roof sometime late Tuesday.
"This is a professional hobby missile, according to the guys at the New Westminster hobby shop," Calogiros said. "It's not something you find everyday."
Joyce Hall was stunned when her sister called her outside to point out the rocket sticking out of their roof. They called the New Westminster police about 5 p.m.
"They laughed and laughed and laughed," said Hall, who called back when no one came by to help. "Finally they came up at 10:30 at night."
As it was dark outside, the attending officer couldn't see the rocket wedged into the roof. Hall's nephew David Romanchuk later removed the missile and put a temporary patch on the roof.
"It went in several inches. I was shocked," Hall said. "When it goes up 1,500 feet, imagine the speed coming down."
With Halloween approaching, Hall hopes no more incidents of this nature will occur in her neighbourhood. She'd like the city to ban fireworks.
Hall expressed concern about the dangers of someone setting off such a device in a residential neighbourhood where people work in their gardens and mothers walk their babies in strollers.
"It would have killed anybody," she said.
Tar marks show where the missile pierced the shingles and roof. Its tubing has compression marks from the impact of hitting and penetrating the roof.
"It makes you nervous," said Hall, who has lived in the house for 30 years. "Nothing like this has ever happened."
On Sept. 18, Hall decided to call the fire department about the missile and a fire inspector visited later that day. When Calogiros received a note from his battalion chief about a call of a rocket in a roof, he suspected it was a bottle rocket that had gone astray.
"She pulls out this two-and-a-half foot missile," he said of his visit to Hall's home. "I was beside myself."
Calogiros visited the local hobby shop to check out its rockets and get information from its staff.
"He said, 'This is so big we don't even sell this size,'" he said. "You have to get it special from somewhere. We are trying to track it down."
While the tube of the missile was two-and-a-half inches wide, it has a wingspan of seven-and-a-half inches.
"I phoned the hobby shop. The first fellow I spoke to, he said they go up 1,500 feet and then they come down," Hall said. "This has been let off in city limits. Normally they have parachutes. This one didn't have a parachute."
After inspecting the device, Calogiros informed the police service of the missile. Police picked up the rocket Tuesday morning and will investigate.
Staff Sgt. Phil Eastwood said the device appears to be made from a model kit. He said it never should have been set off in a residential neighbourhood.
Police will be making some inquiries in the neighbourhood to locate the missile's owner, who will be informed that the device must be launched in safer locations and that the potential for damage and injury exists when setting off such rockets.
The New Westminster Police Service initially believed the report was about a small bottle rocket, so the response would have been prioritized accordingly.
While the sound of fire crackers disturbed the Queen's Park neighbourhood at different times during the summer, no one heard the missile being launched.
"We didn't hear anything," Hall noted. "Our neighbours thought it might be something that fell off a plane."
Hall's nephew would like to hang the missile on his bedroom wall, but for now it's in police custody. With Halloween coming, she's hoping no more missiles will be set off.
The city's fire protection bylaw states that rockets are "high hazard" fireworks. A person wanting to set off high hazard fireworks must obtain a valid special permit from the director of fire and rescue services and must possess a valid fireworks supervisor card that is issued by the Explosives Branch of Energy, Mines and Resources Canada.

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