By Lethbridge Herald on August 19, 2020.
While fire investigators continue to try to determine the cause of a fire that destroyed two homes and damaged a third in the 400 block of Fairmont Boulevard South on Tuesday, they are also stressing it could have been so much worse.
“The biggest thing to say about this incident is it is a large incident,” said City of Lethbridge Fire Prevention Officer Troy Hicks, “However, we have three homes involved and zero injuries, which is fantastic.”
Hicks confirmed the fire likely started in the garage of the corner home, and due to hot conditions and dry winds, spread quickly through the house and then on to the one beside it before being stopped by fire crews after several hours of battle.
Crews from all four local fire stations and Coaldale responded, and about 50 fire members were on scene when the fire was at its worst.
“We had all four stations involved with this fire to the point where a call out went to bring in our night shift people to man the other fire halls at about 3 p.m. in case something else happened in the city,” stated Hicks.
Upon arriving on the scene, there was very little fire crews could do about the first house because it was already fully engulfed, Hicks confirmed. They also could not save the adjacent house either before finally making the stop.
“The house where the fire started and the one adjacent to it are a complete loss,” said Hicks. “The other one on the other side, I was in there this morning with the homeowners. It amazes me there was only some water damage in that home.”
Hicks estimated damage to the three homes amounted to about $1.5 million altogether but, he stressed again, there were no injuries and no loss of life.
In the first house a man evacuated with his four children and his dog just before the blaze fully took hold thanks to the quick actions of neighbours who knocked on the back door to alert the family about the danger. In the second home both occupants were at work and had taken their dog with them. The third home was empty at the time the fire started.
“It’s always difficult talking to homeowners and they realize they have lost everything,” said Hicks. “I always tell people to hug your kids tonight, and be thankful you still can.”
That’s a message Donald Bladen and his wife were taking to heart on Wednesday when talking to reporters in the aftermath: despite losing their home and property in the fire, it could have been so much worse.
“Nobody got hurt,” said Bladen, who is a Major in the local Salvation Army. “No life was lost. There is a lot in life to be thankful for. Houses can be rebuilt, contents can be recovered.”
Bladen and his wife have lived in the home provided by the Salvation Army to support their ministry in the community for the past two years. They lost everything they own in the blaze, he confirmed, but they didn’t lose one important member of their family. Normally, they leave their Yorkshire terrier at home when they go to work, but decided on the spur of the moment to take their pup along on Tuesday.
“And, lo and behold, at about 2:40 p.m. or so I got a call from the alarm company,” he recalled. “They said there were some buildings or homes on fire.”
Bladen said as much as this fire was a personal blow to his family, he was incredibly grateful when arriving on scene to find both his neighbours and their families safe and sound. As for the rest, he said, he would leave it in God’s hands to take care of.
“We will work through it,” Bladen stated. “We are people of faith. We have a lot of friends and a faithful organization behind us, and, you know what, we serve an incredible God. I have no doubt in my mind it will take a little time, but we will get there.”
Hicks said his investigators at the scene were not aware of anything suspicious or criminal about the fire, but had only just started their investigation. All potential causes were still on the table until eliminated by the evidence, he confirmed.
“Hopefully we will be able to find the cause of the fire,” he stated. “Origin is usually pretty easy to find. It’s the actual cause of what started it that is (more difficult). That’s done through interviews and trying to find stuff (on scene).”
— With files from Ian Martens
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