Douglas – A home on the Fourth Chute Road near the Bonnechere Caves in North Algona Wilberforce (NAW)Township suffered heavy smoke and water damage resulting from a stubborn fire that broke out in the basement of the residence late Friday afternoon.

Firefighters from the Douglas Fire Department were first on scene as per their First Response agreement with NAW shortly after the fire was reported at about 5:20 o’clock.

Dougals Fire Chief Bill McHale said when they arrived it was “very hot and very smokey”.

“We’ve got a new crew with some younger guys and they did yeomen’s work,” he remarked. “I can’t believe they got that fire out.

“That house has no reason to be still standing other than a lot of hard work,” he added.

Chief McHale said the response was proof that First Response agreements work.

“And having a water source so close, that certainly helped. We never ran out of water.”

They accessed water from the nearby Bonnechere River and shuttled it two portable reservoirs at the scene.

He said the occupants, Charles and Heather Kuehl, were outside when they arrived and Mrs. Kuehl alerted firefighters her husband was on oxygen and there were some tanks in the residence.

Chief McHale said the two departments worked well together, noting everyone does things slightly differently but in the end, the goal is the same.

“We had firefighters in the basement of the home and they had the next crew going in,” he explained. “And we had a RIT (Rapid Intervention Team) team on standby the entire time.”

He said the RIT team does not go in unless something happens to the crew that is inside.

“But there’s always two people ready on air if something happens to the people inside fighting the fire,” he noted. “They’re the two going in to bring somebody out.”

Chief McHale notified the County of Renfrew paramedics for a welfare check knowing Mr. Kuehl was on oxygen, and he was transported to hospital at one point to be checked over.

He said flames were coming up the basement stairs and it looked like the fire may have been on the first floor and possibly the second floor, when it was actually contained to the basement, other than coming up that stairwell.

“When our initial attack went in, they thought the fire was on the main level, and once they were able to put the staircase out, they  realized all the fire was in the basement and that’s when they started the attack down the stairs.”

He said had the fire breached the exterior of the home it would have made it almost impossible to save, explaining there were several additions which make it difficult to fight a fire with different roof lines and often double walls, etc.

NAW Deputy-Chief at Golden Lake/Deacon, Ted Browne, said personnel responded from both the Golden Lake and Rankin halls and when they arrived there was still heavy smoke exiting the structure.

“With Dougals and Rankin on scene first, we did an aggressive attack and the fire was located in the basement,” he said. “There was a lot of heavy, heavy smoke and heat inside of the house.”

They removed several oxygen tanks from the structure before they exploded.

The home was two-storey at the front with a partial basement with a fairly large crawl space and a single-storey at the back.

“There were no flames that breached the exterior of the house,” he said. “The fire was contained to the basement.”

He said the fire was very difficult to locate because of the heavy smoke and the way the basement was structured. He believes it started in the electrical/furnace room.

“I would say it was possibly electrical in nature,” he said.

Dep-Chief Browne credited the Douglas Fire Department for doing a great job battling the fire until NAW personnel arrived.

“If it wasn’t for our First Response agreement, by the time we would have got there, that house would have been fully involved,” he remarked. “Douglas did a great job to control it and we worked together well.”

He said there were 38 firefighters on scene between the two departments, 17 from Dougals and 21 from NAW, and a full complement of equipment that included three pumpers, four tankers and three rescue vehicles.   

He said a couple of firefighters received minor injuries but no one required medical treatment from Renfrew paramedics on scene.

Douglas was discharged from the scene around 9 p.m. and the majority of NAW were released by 10 o’clock.

“We left four personnel, a pumper, and an emergency van there until midnight in case of flare-ups,” he said.

He believed the couple are staying with relatives in Laurentian Valley Township.

While the exterior of the structure is still good, Dep-Chief Browne was concerned the heavy smoke and water damage may not allow for the home to be salvaged.

“The homeowners were very thankful,” he said. “She (Mrs. Kuehl) came around and thanked everybody.”