Shrapnel narrowly missed firefighters in ‘suspicious’ North Island house fire

  • Jun. 25, 2019 4:45 p.m.
Flames destroyed a home at 2335 Henderson Ave. on Tuesday morning. No injuries were reported. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
Heavy smoke billows from a house fire at the Wei Wai Kum reserve in Campbell River. The smoke was visible from miles away. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
A home on Henderson Avenue was fully involved in fire on Tuesday morning when firefighters arrived on-scene, said Fire Chief Thomas Doherty. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
There were 17 firefighters involved in the Tuesday morning operation at 2335 Henderson Ave. They quelled the house fire and knocked down flames that spread to vinyl siding on a neighbouring home. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

UPDATE June 26, 9:45 a.m. – Material from exploding propane cylinders narrowly missed firefighters during a blaze on the Wei Wai Kum Nation reserve on Tuesday morning, according to Campbell River Fire Chief Thomas Doherty.

“(T)there were multiple propane tanks venting and on fire, there were a number of explosions occurring,” Doherty said in an email. “There was one explosion that sent metal shrapnel flying, just missing myself and one other firefighter.”

No injuries were reported in the house fire at 2335 Henderson Ave., which authorities have called suspicious.

The building was fully involved when firefighters arrived around 9:20 a.m., Doherty said, shortly after firefighters quelled the blaze.

“We’re treating it as suspicious in nature at this point,” he said.

Flames spread to the vinyl siding of a neighbouring home, but firefighters were able to prevent it from spreading further.

“We were able to knock that down, save that home and protect the remaining homes on either side,” he said.

There were 17 firefighters and several fire trucks involved, Doherty said. Crews remained on scene to watch for hot spots. Firefighters were also receiving health assessments.

Insp. Jeff Preston, detachment commander for the Campbell River RCMP, said the fire was suspicious.

Wei Wai Kum Chief Chris Roberts said he was grateful for the quick action by first responders and the response from residents.

“We’re a tight-knit community,” Roberts said. “When things like this happen, it involves or concerns a lot of people.”

He added he was thankful that neighbouring homes didn’t appear to be damaged and that no one was hurt.

A neighbour who declined to provide her full name said the vinyl siding on her home was “pretty melted” but that insurance would cover the expense.

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Markell Miller, who lives across the street, said his wife saw a man in the doorway of the house moments before the fire started. She was walking to work at the time, Miller said.

“He was doing something at the doorway there,” he said. “After he left, she (saw) a fire there.”

The man then knocked on the doors of both neighbouring homes after the fire was started, Miller said, but no one was home.

After knocking on the doors, the man “just booked it with his car and took off.”

Smoke from the fire was visible from miles away.

Melissa Lambert, who lives in the area, said she went to check on elders with respiratory issues after seeing heavy smoke billowing from the house. Several elders in the neighbourhood are on oxygen, she said.

“We just wanted to make sure their well-being was looked after,” said Lambert, a nurse with Kwakiutl District Council Health. “They were more panicked about what was going on and the situation in the community than their own health.”

This story was updated on June 26 with more details from the Campbell River Fire Department.

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