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Overnight fire destroys home in Tlell

Tlell firefighters are having a busy year
(Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer file photo)

An overnight fire destroyed a home in Tlell last week and it’s lucky anyone saw it before it spread.

No one was in the rented house at 727 Richardson Road when the fire started in the early hours of Monday, Nov. 6., and no one was injured fighting it. But everything inside was destroyed.

Tlell Fire Chief Mike Richardson said it’s impossible to know for sure, but the fire was most likely sparked by an electrical failure.

Thankfully someone next door just happened to get up to use the washroom at 2 a.m. and saw what at first they thought was a bonfire.

“Basically, the structure was fully engulfed by the time we got there — it was fully going,” Richardson said.

Seven of Tlell’s volunteer firefighters responded with both the pumper and the rescue truck. The homeowner and several neighbours all helped fight the fire, too.

Richardson said it was a good thing the homeowner had two cisterns full of water on the property.

Without hydrants, Tlell firefighters rely on pumping the Tlell River, ponds or other surface water, and it took some time to run hoses from the house to the river about 240 metres (800 feet) away.

“They had 1,000 gallons of water right there, handy,” Richardson said, and firefighters switched between the cisterns and the 1,500 gallons stored in the pumper truck before the river line was ready.

“We were able to keep going the whole time,” he said.

“That’s a kudos to the crew for keeping it all together and getting her done.”

By another stroke of luck, Richardson said the wind stayed fairly calm while the fire was burning. A strong southeaster that might have spread the fire blew up closer to dawn.

“Just as we were buttoning up and going home, the big huge gusts started coming through.”

It’s been a busy year for Tlell firefighters, with a major fire at Richardson Ranch in April and a not-so smart “smart meter” on the Crow’s Nest Café that overheated a couple weeks ago, melting a hole in the plastic cover and scorching the display.

“That’s three, so I hope it will back off for a while,” Richardson said.

Funding approved

On Saturday, Tlellians voted 60-34 in favour of a local property tax to better fund the Tlell fire service. Speaking before the vote, Richardson said the move gives firefighters a chance to upgrade everything.

Run as a service of the North Coast Regional District, the newly funded fire department will receive $25,000 in operating funds in year one, and up to $30,000 in following years.

Mike Racz, the NCRD director for the area, said the funding will let Tlell’s volunteer crew focus on firefighting rather than fundraising, and should also save time and money on administration.