Deacon – Members of the North Algona Wilberforce (NAW) Fire Department are being praised for their yeoman effort last Tuesday afternoon as they battled very difficult circumstances to contain a rapidly spreading bush fire on Tramore Road that could potentially have destroyed several homes.

Golden Lake Station Deputy-Chief Ted Browne and Chief Kevin Champ had high praise for their personnel who battled the blaze that started at a property along Tramore Road and spread into the bush on what is commonly known as Blueberry Mountain.

Dep/Chief Browne said the call came in at 4:35 and personnel from the Golden Lake and Deacon Stations responded.

He said the first firefighter on scene advised him the fire was spreading quickly toward the steep hill, so he paged out the Rankin Station while he was enroute to the fire.

“The Deacon pumper was the first on scene and we had three personnel there, including myself,” he said. “For the initial attack, we grabbed lines from the truck to stop the fire from spreading to the structure right where the fire was started.”

Once that was accomplished, they ran a forestry line, and created a right and left flank of the arriving personnel.

“The concern was the left flank because there were houses down there as well that the fire was going to,” he explained. “We managed to get that out and control it from getting to the houses, but then it climbed that mountain.

“I’m not sure if you’re familiar with it, but it’s straight up,” he added. “I’d never seen a fire like that, and I can’t believe we got personnel up there. If you go and look at it, it’s just straight up.”

He said they had personnel on the left and right flank, and they climbed the mountain with hose and hose packs and after three hours they finally had it contained.

“We finally got around ahead of it and the left flank and right flank finally met up with each other. It was getting pretty close to a hunt camp back there.”

He said a few firefighters suffered minor injuries from slips and falls, and another firefighter got a twig in the eye.

Dep/Chief Browne said in his 21 years as a firefighter he had never battled a fire in such difficult terrain.

“That’s the first time I’d ever seen terrain like that. We’d never really trained to that extreme.

“It was unbelievable the work our personnel did,” he added. “People don’t understand what personnel had to do to get that fire out. It’s not your normal bush fire. They did an amazing job.”

He said it was very windy, noting had the wind been blowing in another direction they possibly would have lost multiple structures. 

A total of 26 firefighters responded.

“We sent a pumper down to the Eady Road dry hydrant for a water supply and we ran tankers from there to feed the pumpers,” he explained. “We also set up a Wajax (portable pump) in the creek there.

“But most of the water came out of the dry hydrant,” he added.

He estimated 15,000 gallons of water were used in the course of the fire.

Dep/Chief Browne said some personnel returned to the scene Wednesday to extinguish hot spots. He said when they pulled the hoses Tuesday night, they hoped they would get the projected snow and rain, but it didn’t come early enough.     

He said it was ironic that one day the department was battling a bush fire and 24 hours later there were three to four inches of snow on the ground and they were responding to a vehicle crash and a burning hydro pole caused from heavy snow.  He said he had never seen it so dry for this time of year prior to the snow.

Dewp/Chief Browne said the neighbours in the area of the Tramore fire were grateful to firefighters for their efforts in getting the fire out.

“It makes you feel good,” he remarked.

 He noted a few civilians assisted with stretching the hose as personnel were still arriving.

“It was really appreciated,” he said.

Chief Kevin Champ agreed the fire was one of the toughest he’d ever been part of.

“We had one similar to that when we had the water bombers out,” he said. “It was the same sort of vertical, but this was five times taller.

“It had to be 80 to 100 feet up in the air,” he added. “The firefighters were up there like mountain goats.

“They worked hard and they surrounded it and isolated it,” he added.

Chief Champ also extended his thanks to the civilians who assisted with information, supplies and services.

He said the fire was caused by improper burning which will result in fines being issued to the property owner. He said he was perplexed by the fact people were not paying attention to how dry the conditions were everywhere.

“And this particular one was burning that was not monitored,” he remarked. “It was burning in the backyard, and quite frankly, they could have lost their house.”