“Oh, my God, it’s gone.”
Lorne Stubbs’ wife Casey stood across the street from her home on Elkford Road on Tuesday afternoon as nearly a dozen firefighters trained multiple hoses on the remains of the house she and her husband were renting. There was nothing left of the home or its garage except for a smoking hull. A fifth wheel trailer was ablaze next to a large stand of trees. Two vehicles were burned beyond repair in the driveway.
Casey and Lorne’s grandmother, Karen Brown, noticed the fire while they were folding laundry in one of the bedrooms earlier in the afternoon.
“She noticed it,” Brown said of Casey. “We could see black smoke coming…we opened the door and closed it really quickly. It was so hot.”
She said she told Casey to grab the three children and get out of the house. “I knew there was no chance of getting anything out of there. It was get the kids and get out,” Brown related.
Port Alberni Fire Chief Tim Pley said the house was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived on scene. “The challenge is it’s a hot day and there’s no firefighting water up here. They’re not on municipal water,” he said. Elkford Road is in Cherry Creek, part of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.
When the 911 call came in, Brick immediately asked for mutual aid from Port Alberni Fire Department. He said Cherry Creek’s volunteer department was short on available members due to holidays and the time of day—mid-afternoon.
“When we got (there) we dumped all the water we had to set the fire back because it was up in the trees,” Pley said. Then volunteer fire departments from Cherry Creek, Beaver Creek and Sproat Lake used their tenders, or water trucks, to bring water from the nearest hydrants near Alberni Towing at the bottom of the west side of the Hump to fill two large bladders, and water from the bladders was subsequently pumped up Elkford Road to fire trucks at the scene.
The Wildfire Management Branch sent 10 people from the Port Alberni-based Thunderbird unit as well as a three-person initial attack crew and an officer from the Coastal Fire Centre in Parksville to check for hot spots in the trees behind the burning house.
Cherry Creek deputy fire chief Brian Brick said the fire seems to have started in a bedroom. Firefighters were still busy knocking down flames late in the afternoon and Brick said there would be no more answers on the fire until at least tomorrow.
Edited: Helicopter circling the site was not one from Coastal Fire Centre.