A fire caused by downed powerlines leaps onto nearby pine trees at a Christina Lake couple’s retirement home near the American border (Sherry Congdon)

Christina Lake FD puts out fire at retired couple’s home near US border

The fire started early Labour Day Monday after a tree brought down powerlines near the Cascade Border crossing

A retired couple near Christina Lake is thankful to volunteer firefighters who put out a fire that threatened to burn down their home near the American border Monday morning, Sept. 7.

Christina Lake Fire & Rescue chief, Joe Geary, confirmed the fire was caused by downed powerlines next to the couple’s property. No one was hurt and the home escaped the flames.

Homeowner, Bruce Congdon, said he was woken up at 4:20 a.m. by a loud noise outside his River Drive West residence. He ran to his porch where, struggling to fasten a patio umbrella he thought had blown over in the wind, he spotted flames out of the corner of his eye.

Bruce Congdon, right, sits next to his wife, Sherry. Bruce said he spotted the fire on his property while struggling to fasten the couple’s porch umbrella Monday morning, Sept. 8 (Laurie Tritschler - Grand Forks Gazette)

He immediately phoned Christina Lake Fire and Rescue, telling the dispatch operator he thought the flames were coming from a brush pile on his property.

Fanned by a westerly wind, he said the fire quickly spread into the brush underneath a clump of pine trees next to the couple’s new home.

“We gotta leave, and we gotta leave now!” he told his wife, Sherry, who had been battling the flames with a garden hose. The couple grabbed their passports, Wills, and cellphones and waited for firefighters at their front gate.

READ MORE: Christina Lake home gutted by fire

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Fire crews were on-scene 18 minutes after Bruce called for help, said chief Geary. All of the department’s 18 firefighters had pitched in by the time crews left just after 7:30 a.m.

Somehow, the flames didn’t ignite the huge brush pile just meters from where firefighters beat back the blaze.

“That was just luck,” said Chief Geary.

Geary stressed that the Congdons’ home could have burnt down had Bruce not reported the fire when he did.

Normally a light sleeper, Bruce joked that, “I never get up at four in the morning!”

Fire caused by downed powerlines

Geary confirmed that the fire was caused by powerlines brought down by a fallen pine tree along the Congdons’ property line.

The fire started after a pine tree, bottom right, struck powerlines along the Congdons’ property line (Laurie Tritschler - Grand Forks Gazette)

The Congdons’ neighbour, Geoff Canuel, explained that the tree had been marked for removal by a tree service contracted by Fortis BC, the power company that owns the powerlines along an easement between the two properties.

Canuel said he’d phoned Fortis BC in August to report dead pines on his property within striking range of the powerlines. He added that the tree service held off removing several hazardous trees, including the one fire fighters deemed to have caused Monday’s fire, because it was too hot and dry to safely operate chainsaws.

The pine tree which caused Monday’s fire was marked for removal by a tree service contracted by Fortis BC (Laurie Tritschler - Grand Forks Gazette)

The Gazette is awaiting comment by Fortis BC.

Flying embers caused second fire

Fire crews were called to a second, smaller fire Chief Geary said was lit by embers blowing off the Congdon’s property. The secondary fire burned an approximately 10-foot circle of brush on a property at the nearby intersection of Burlington Road and River Drive West.

Congdons home newly built

The couple said they finished building their home in April 2020. The two said they moved to Grand Forks last fall after retiring in Leduc, Alberta.



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