Firefighters tackle a structure fire that destroyed a home on Willowbrae Road on Friday night. (Photo courtesy of Rick Geddes)

Firefighters tackle a structure fire that destroyed a home on Willowbrae Road on Friday night. (Photo courtesy of Rick Geddes)

GoFundMe launched after fire destroys home near Ucluelet

Ucluelet and Tofino fire crews team up to tackle residential blaze

The West Coast is rallying around a group of residents whose home was destroyed by a fire on Friday night.

“The five longtime-local occupants lost everything they own, the owner lost a house, and at least one person will likely be facing medical expenses,” reads a GoFundme Page launched Saturday morning.

The page had reached $3,425 of its $5,000 goal by 4 p.m. that day.

Ucluelet Fire Chief Rick Geddes said the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade was called to a shed fire on Willowbrae Road around 9:40 p.m. Friday.

He said he was the first to arrive on scene and the shed was fully engulfed when he arrived, adding he immediately called for assistance from Tofino when he noticed how close the fire was to the residence.

“It didn’t take long for the house to become fully involved. As our first engine was arriving, the house was fully involved. We did have confirmation that everybody was out at that time, so that shifted our focus to the exposures, the trees in the neighbourhood. It’s a heavily forested area, so that became our biggest concern, containing it to the footprint of the structure,” he said. “It’s a huge concern especially where trees such as this particular property are right up within ten feet of the structure. We did have flames getting up quite high in the trees which is a concern especially with our lack of water.”

He added the situation was complicated due to the lack of fire hydrants in the rural area, which is outside the District of Ucluelet’s boundaries and in Alberni Clayoquot Regional District territory.

“The nearest hydrant is a couple kilometres away, so we had a lot of hose we had to lay and also we had to relay pump because of the distance to the hydrant,” he said.

He said Tofino’s assistance was key to prevent the fire from spreading through the neighbourhood as their equipment facilitated pumping water the long distance.

“That’s huge. When we only have a small population to draw our membership from, we really rely on each other, just as Tofino relies on us. It’s a really good partnership and it works really well,” he said. “There’s no money exchanged between towns, it’s just ‘I help you and you help me’ and in the end it all evens out. They have some resources that we don’t and vice versa.”

He said the effort included 13 firefighters, two ambulances and RCMP and that one of the home’s occupants was transported to hospital.

The crew battled the blaze until returning to the Ucluelet Fire Hall around 4 a.m., but were called back to the scene later that morning.

“Overnight we had a bit of a rekindle, which is not unexpected in an area such as this where there is heavy fuel load,” Geddes told the Westerly News at the scene around noon on Saturday. “It wasn’t unexpected for us to get called back this morning.”

He said an exact point of origin and cause of the fire are still under investigation.

“We want to thank all the residents in the area for giving us room and allowing us to do our job. There were quite a few people watching last night, but they were very respectful of us and allowed us to do our job,” he said. “And, I’d really like to thank my crew for coming out and staying out all night, it’s basically the same crew that’s here again all day today and as well as Tofino Fire Rescue…They came and were here when we needed them.”

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