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