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COMMENTARY · 25th December 2009
Walter McFarlane
Just before the provincial election, I was sitting down at the library staring at my laptop and catching up on a previous Kitimat City Council Meeting and preparing some photos that needed to hit the website that night. Little did I realize the sound of sirens that suddenly filled the air were not a typical ambulance call…

A duplex, A triplex, a single house, a stove, a kitchen, a treadmill, 101 industries, and an auto detailing shop behind Pete’s Autobody Although individually insignificant to the average person in Kitimat, the number of fires Kitimat experienced this year… particularly in the Spring… were surprisingly high. Fortunately… incredibly fortunately… there were no human fatalities.

It started with the duplex at 37 and 39 Partridge Street. On April 21st, Hailsla Boulevard was closed off because of the fire. It started in the garage on the right side of the duplex. The Fire Fighters were told that someone might have been inside. They geared up and went in. During a quick search of the house, they found no one, but one of their number suffered from smoke inhalation..

The second fire was at a triplex on Mallard Street. On May 17th, a computer room caught fire taking the middle apartment of the triplex out. The owner was home at the time and he was evacuated by his neighbours via the porch. One neighbour spotted the smoke and brought his ladder to the porch well in advance.

Three of the fires were quite small. On July 23rd, in the morning, Fire Fighters were called to 24 Hallman. A stove had caught fire. Fire Fighters suspected that material had been piled on the elements and the stove had been accidentally activated. There was also a small kitchen fire in early June. The Fire Department responded to the call but someone with a fire extinguisher beat them to the punch. In addition, someone set a treadmill on fire outside of What’s in Store on August 10th.

The detailing shop was the most recent. On November 26th, Fire Fighters were called to Service Centre when smoke was smelled in the vicinity. The fire spread through the walls to the roof. The fire was believed to be an electrical fire. Four of the fires were believed to be electrical in nature.

In the morning of June 18th, the Fire Fighters were called to 101 Industries. Wiring in the walls caught fire and spread to the roof. Putting out the fire proved to be a challenge for the Fire Fighters as the waterline to Service Centre was under construction at the time and a pipe within the building burst taking some of the water that the firefighters needed to fight the fire. While the fire fighters worked, 101 employees worked to remove equipment from nearby garages.

On June 4th, Kitimat residents awoke at 4 o’clock in the morning to find that a house in their neighbourhood was ablaze. In the aftermath, 31 Swallow had been reduced to a charred skeletal frame. Two houses on either side had been damaged by the fire. No one was in number 31 at the time of the fire.

One thing that a majority of the fires have in common is that the Kitimat Fire Department were alerted to them by people on the streets who saw them. Several were called in and contained before they could get out of control. One group of neighbours even made sure there was a safe exit for someone trapped in the building by setting up a ladder in case he needed to exit via the balcony, which he did. Fire Chief John Klie has thanked these people time and time again for their vigilance.

The reason that the fires were significant enough to make this list is that many of them happened within a span of 3 months. 3 months, 5 fires, 4 of which were devastating. The first fire happened one day apart from last years big fire at the Baxter Appartments. The Kitimat Fire Department has been called upon time and time again to protect the community and have done an excellent job. Some of the buildings struck by fire and water have been salvaged.

As a significant number of these fires took place over a span of 3 months, it is difficult to pin point any one fire as being significant, as four of these fires were equally devastating. The Duplex was torn down, the triplex boarded up and 101 industries needed a significant face lift. However, we at the Kitimat Daily have selected the fire at 31 Swallow to be the number 5 most significant event in Kitimat in 2009. Here is why:

Although the real significance is the three month span, this fire was the third fire and right in the middle. This fire also prompted Fire Chief John Klie to give a presentation on fires at the City Council Meeting. The occupants of the house, which we were told included 2 children were NOT in the house when the house was burning. They had gone to spend the night with family when the fire took place. As this fire occurred in the middle of the night, this was good timing.

In addition, the start of this fire is still considered to be a bit of a mystery. As of November 13th, the cause of the fire had still not been determined. Since then, a reward has been offered for information leading to arrest and conviction of whomever set the fire. Neighbours at the time of the fire suggested foul play and the RCMP sent samples away to their labs to test for accelerants.

We at the Kitimat Daily would like to thank the Kitimat Fire Department for a job well done in 2009. Similar comments on this article are welcome.
The fire on Swallow Street reduced this home to a skeletal frame.
The fire on Swallow Street reduced this home to a skeletal frame.
Smoke raises above 101 Industries.
Smoke raises above 101 Industries.
A duplex on Partridge Street was the first major fire of the new year.
A duplex on Partridge Street was the first major fire of the new year.
A triplex on Mallard Street had the second big fire of the year.  Shown is the rear of the building.
A triplex on Mallard Street had the second big fire of the year. Shown is the rear of the building.