House fire ravages four buildings on Fourth Avenue

A home-made exhaust system for a generator used to power the off-grid home caused the July 27 fire.

A single family home on Forth Avenue was ravaged by a fire in the early morning of Monday

An early morning house fire on July 27 spread to four buildings before Port Alberni Fire Department crews could contain it, said fire Chief Tim Pley.

The blaze started when a home made exhaust pipe for the generator used to power the house lit the outside wall on fire, said Pley.

“The power had been disconnected to the building some time ago so the tenants had been using a generator to power the building and they’d build a home-made exhaust system for the generator sticking out through a wall,” said Pley.

“We believe that the heat from the exhaust pipe ignited the wall.”

The house’s two residents and one guest were not home at the time of the ignition, leading to the fire growing significantly before the fire department was called at 3:47 a.m.

“It started on the outside wall in the back and the fire spread to the front of the building and to the second story,” said Pley. “There was fire coming from the top front window as well.”

The fire spread to two outbuildings, the neighbouring garage and various flammable materials around the outbuildings.

“The fire damaged the house and two outbuildings and it also damaged a garage on a neighbouring property,” said Pley.

Three trucks and 14 firefighters were called to the fire that took half-an-hour to contain. Crews stayed on scene until almost 8 a.m. to ensure that the blaze was fully out.

According to Pley, residents shouldn’t be using generators to power their homes in that way.

“It’s more common than we’d like to see and here’s several things that can go wrong,” he said, carbon monoxide poisoning being the other deadly risk.

“You can poison yourself with carbon monoxide,” said Pley. “This resident had tried to resolve that by building an exhaust system sticking out of the house. So you have fire risk, you have carbon monoxide risk.”

There’s also a risk for BC Hydro workers.

“Another risk was that he was backfeeding into BC Hydro’s grid,” said Pley. “BC Hydro had disconnected the wires but those wires were now live from the house side so instead of power coming from the grid to the house, power was going from the house potentially to the grid and that puts BC Hydro workers at risk when you do that.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

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