A Ucluelet First Nation home was destroyed by a fire in Hitacu Sunday morning.
Ucluelet’s fire chief Rick Geddes told the Westerly News that the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade was called to the scene at 2:22 a.m. and immediately raced to their neighbouring community to battle the blaze, but found the two-storey home already engulfed.
“I was the first one on scene and the house was fully involved. There were flames through the roof,” Geddes said. “At that point, there was nothing we could really save from the house, we were more concerned about saving the neighbours’ houses because of the proximity. So, that became our focus, just containing it to the point of origin…It was right in a residential area there.”
Hitacu’s fire crew and the Ucluelet Brigade were joined at the scene by members from the Tofino Volunteer Fire Department, who brought their ladder truck from their community, roughly 42 kilometres away.
“I called Tofino for help right away,” Geddes said. “It was really a nice favour that they did, sending what they could.”
He said no injuries have been reported and no one is believed to have been in the home when the fire occurred. He added that neighbours advised that the people living in the home had moved out several days ago.
“It was not safe for us to go in and search it to see if anybody was in there, but the information we have is that there was nobody in there,” he said.
He said it took the three fire crews roughly three hours to put the fire out, but the home was destroyed and partially collapsed during the blaze.
“There’s nothing left of it,” he said adding all three crews worked well together to save the surrounding homes.
“We had two guys that were on the nozzle for the entire time, three-plus hours, and that’s hard work. There’s a lot of force in that hose and just to move it around is tough. So, the two guys on the hose there really busted their butts for the community and that was really cool to see.”
An investigation into what caused the fire is underway, but the cause of the fire was not immediately known.
Hitacu resident Tissa Jewett told the Westerly News she was alerted to the fire when her son “saw a flame shooting off our neighbour’s house and heard screaming.”
She said she immediately called 911 and was unsure if anyone was trapped inside the burning home.
“All around the chimney it was going up in flames…I couldn’t remember if the house was currently occupied or not and it was going really fast,” she said. “I watched this house go from just the flames on one corner by the chimney, to fully engulfed; the power lines melted off, the back wall had fallen off and the side wall had fallen off in about 20 minutes.”
She added the community quickly gathered at the scene and there was panic over whether anyone was inside.
“A lot of people who came up were all coming distraught to see if anybody had been in the house,” she said.
She suggested it took roughly 45 minutes for the first fire truck to arrive from Ucluelet, roughly 15 kilometres away, and she became very concerned for the safety of bystanders.
“The great thing about when the hose truck arrived, was they started clearing the area because many people were really close to the fire, which became my biggest concern because no one could tell there were downed power lines because all of the street lights around there had gone out from the fire,” she said. “I’m wondering about the response time, but I’m also wondering whose responsibility it is to clear a hazardous scene that could have resulted in a fatality.”
She said a person at the scene later claimed to have been inside the home when the fire started, but he had escaped without injury.
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