Explosions and fire torched a workshop, warehouse, and part of the boarding kennels at Tlell’s Richardson Ranch last Friday night.
No people or animals were hurt, but the kennels are indefinitely closed.
Veterinarian Dr. Dane Richardson was at work in the clinic of the Haida Gwaii Animal Hospital when he and veterinary tech Stephanie Sterling heard the first boom at about 7:30 p.m.
They ran outside and saw a corner of the shop already on fire.
A worker who was inside walked out safe — it’s still unclear how the fire started, but it may have been sparked by a grinding tool.
Fortunately, Dr. Richardson said there was only one dog boarding in the kennels.
Only a minute after they had rescued the dog and moved everyone to a safe distance, they heard a second boom — one of the shop’s big oxyacetylene fuel tanks exploded.
“That’s what people down on Beitush Road thought was an earthquake,” Richardson said.
“It was big enough that it shook everyone’s house in Tlell.”
The shop windows blew out, and windows on nearby buildings shattered, too.
Tlell’s volunteer firefighters were quick to arrive, and they were soon joined by firefighters from Port Clements.
“Full props to them — they were here in minutes,” said Richardson.
“But there was nothing you could do to save the shop at that point.”
Even with two crews working, it wasn’t long before the fire tore through the next-door warehouse and spread to a corner of the kennels. Both fire crews had to work hard to stop it there.
Had the wind been blowing, Richardson said it could have been much worse.
The Richardsons have been working their Tlell cattle ranch since 1919.
The workshop had stood for several of their seven generations on Haida Gwaii, and held tools worked by grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and great-great-grandfathers.
“No one got hurt, that’s all that really matters,” said Richardson.
“We can rebuild buildings. It’s probably the history that stings the most for the family.”