A furnace malfunction caused one of two structure fires in Campbell River on Jan. 1. Image courtesy Cathy Kalyniuk

Campbell River resident praises firefighters following furnace fire

Fire department responds to seven structure fires in six days, including two on New Year’s Day

The New Year is off to a busy start for the Campbell River Fire Department, and one local resident is praising firefighters for their fast response to a furnace fire on Tuesday night.

Cathy Kalyniuk, who lives on Apple Drive in southern Campbell River, was in bed on Tuesday night when her husband noticed the smell of smoke. They called 911 and evacuated the building with their cat, Mr. Spock, and firefighters were on-scene within five minutes, Kalyniuk said.

“We were just so incredibly impressed with the efficiency of the fire department,” she said.

The control board of their furnace had melted, fusing with the body of the furnace, and within inches of a gas line, she said.

Kalyniuk noted that she’s unsure whether the gas line was at risk of ignition. But she credited the firefighters for their fast response and professionalism – calling them compassionate and thorough – during “probably the scariest 15-20 minutes that you can imagine.”

It was one of two structure fires that took place on New Year’s Day alone, for a total of seven fires in just six days, according to fire chief Thomas Doherty.

Rapid responses by firefighters kept the small fires from spreading, he said.

“We were able to get there quick enough to keep them small,” he said.

He noted that firefighters used a thermal imaging camera to scan the walls of Kalyniuk’s house. Firefighters isolated the fire to the furnace without any further incident, he said.

“We noticed a light haze of smoke in the downstairs, and on further investigation we found that the furnace had malfunctioned,” he said.

At this time of year, many incidents involve heating systems, Doherty said.

He advised people to clear away any combustible items around space heaters, baseboard heaters and so on. He also noted that people should get regular maintenance for their furnaces.

Kalyniuk said her ventilation ducts had recently been cleaned out, and she also urged residents to get their furnaces checked.

An earlier incident on Jan. 1 took place shortly after 4 a.m. on Mariwood Drive, also in southern Campbell River. The house had filled with smoke, which firefighters traced to a candle in a glass jar.

“It had been burning for some time, and it caused the jar to crack,” Doherty said. “The jar itself was wrapped in a thin rope-twine, and it was the twine that started to ignite and started to smoke.”

Firefighters cleared out the smoke, and no injuries were reported.

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Family displaced

The string of fires also included a fire on the morning of Dec. 29 in a six-unit building on Matlaten Crescent, near Tyee Spit.

Firefighters from both of Campbell River’s fire halls responded, and they were able to contain the fire to a kitchen on the lower floor of the building, Doherty said.

All five occupants – four children and one adult – managed to escape through a back door, and they were transported to hospital, where they were treated for smoke inhalation, Doherty said.

He added that several residents of an upstairs unit were treated on-site for smoke inhalation by the BC Ambulance Service.

An investigator from the fire department is looking into the exact cause of the fire, but it apparently began in the kitchen, Doherty said.

Although firefighters kept it from spreading, damage caused by the fire means the family will be displaced for some time, he said.

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Small dog rescued

On Dec. 30, firefighters quelled a fire in another multifamily complex and rescued a small dog, Doherty said.

The occupants – two adults and five children – weren’t home when the fire started at 400 Robron Rd., but a neighbour reported the emergency after hearing the smoke alarm, he said.

“Firefighters gained entry and were able to contain the fire to the living room with minimal damage,” he said.

Firefighters rescued a small dog from inside the home and provided it with oxygen using a special kit designed for animals, he said, adding that the cause of the fire is under investigation.

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Housing project fire

The newly-opened social housing facility at 340 South Island Hwy. – a former Travelodge – was also the site of a fire on Dec. 31.

Nobody was displaced from the 39-unit housing project, Doherty said. The facility, which officially opened in early December, serves people with low or moderate incomes.

The fire department reported on Twitter that upon arrival, crews found heavy smoke in a unit on the first floor. Smoke and fire was contained to the unit, and no injuries were reported.

The fire started in a toaster oven, Doherty said.

Growing number of fires

Other incidents included one that took place in a shed on the 500 block of Birch Street on Dec. 26, and a New Year’s Eve incident involving an electrical problem on the 300 block of Harrogate Road.

None of the fires were considered suspicious, Doherty said.

He said the frequency of emergency calls is increasing as the city grows.

Doherty noted that many fires originate in kitchens. He stressed the importance of not leaving kitchens unattended while cooking. He also noted that people should keep ovens mitts and other combustible items well away from stove tops.


@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

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