Fire chief promoting safety planning after fires
By Sue Tiffin
Two fires were safely put out last week by the Minden Hills Fire Department, but fire chief Nelson Johnson is reminding the local business community to develop a fire safety plan and participate in a lock box program, initiatives part of a fire safety program he said can be promoted over the next year or two.
“It takes a community to fix the community right, so everybody needs to have this information so they know that they shouldn’t wait for us to tell them to do it, they should start working on it,” he said.
On July 1, eight volunteers with the Minden Hills Fire Department responded to the smell and presence of smoke inside the Dominion Hotel, on Bobcaygeon Road, just after 7 p.m.
Upon entering the building, which had been evacuated of tenants and staff, firefighters were aware of what smelled like electrical smoke, but couldn’t find the source of the fire until after a room-by-room search of the second floor of the building, where smoke was reported.
“When we got there, we couldn’t find the flames, so it made it hard to search for, but it was an electrical fire that was caused by an overloaded circuit probably,” Johnson told the Times. “It had melted a whole bunch of wires and it was still active when we got there, it was just very hard to find because it was up in the ceiling and in the wall space. It was difficult to locate but we found it and looked after that one.”
Johnson said the building was equipped with fire alarms, which were activated, and noted it was important the fire was taken care of quickly to protect the historic landmark, and other structures it is connected to.
“There would have been a lot of damage,” he said.
The Minden Hills Fire Department responded to a call at the Dominion
Hotel on Bobcaygeon Road on July 1. The next night, the fire department
was called to a fire at Scotch Line landfill. / Photo submitted by Shawn
Shawn Chamberlin, Dominion Hotel owner, was appreciative the situation was handled quickly.
“We are glad it wasn’t any more serious and that no one was hurt,” he said. “And we are extremely grateful for all the volunteers in the Minden Fire Department who did a great job responding to and dealing with the situation. And especially for putting our hearts, and minds to rest. Thanks to all who came by to comfort us, to sit with us on the Country Magic steps while we waited the outcome and those who called or texted us to make sure we were OK. This is a great community to live, work and play.”
On July 2, the Minden Hills Fire Department was called to Scotch Line landfill in Minden for a refuse fire, just before 7 p.m.
A key the fire department had to the gate did not work, and so a fence was taken down for the first responders to access the site, where a bin of construction materials was on fire.
“Once they got inside, we set up our fire truck and we pulled out a portable monitor to quickly attack the fire,” said Johnson. “That fire, I estimate the size would be about 3,000 square feet, and it wasn’t all burning but it was spreading pretty fast and pretty hot when we first arrived there.”
The portable monitor, or master stream device, flows up to 500 gallons of water per minute, and only requires one person to use it.
“It keeps our distance,” said Johnson. “It shoots almost double the distance as what a hand line does, so it allows us to knock down big fires, fast.”
Johnson said the department, with 11 people attending, also established three hand lines, used their water tender as well as a pumper to shuttle water back and forth to the site, and also called for assistance from Dysart et al to bring another water truck in. An excavator operator also attended.
“That’s mainly due to the situation of a pile of wood, and all kinds of different kinds of wood and construction materials and stuff, it can leave spaces, it covers everything,” said Johnson. “The excavator was a big help because it moves the pile so that we can get our water stream underneath all those concealed spaces ... He did a wonderful job for us.”
The fire department also applied foam to the fire, wetting the wood so that it couldn’t reignite.
Johnson said he couldn’t give a determination of the cause of the fire, but said it was likely a chemical reaction, possibly creating a spontaneous combustion. He said the fire started down low inside the pile, and that it is important that people remember to sort and separate materials properly.
“It’s one of those things where, it’s very important not to throw stuff, and separate and sort properly, and not to throw other things into those types of bins,” he said. “It’s not just contractors, someone might come along and think, hey, this is a great opportunity to use that bin, right, and throw something in there that the contractor doesn’t even know [about].”
“Construction and demolition can sometimes do that especially with this very dry/hot weather,” said Travis Wilson, director of public works. “Typically what happens is somehow an oily rag finds its way into somebody’s load of C&D. They tip it at the landfill into another large pile of C&D. It is near impossible to spot one oily rag in hundreds of cubic meters of C&D. With the rag buried in the pile they can spontaneously combust, which can go on for days or weeks. Once it has burnt off enough product for ample amounts of oxygen, it will then turn into a fire.”
Wilson said approximately 345m³ of C&D waste was burnt.
“To give you a further idea of how long it had likely been smouldering within the pile, the landfill was closed on July 1 and we only had three visitors who hauled in C&D on July 2. So at least two full days.”
He thanked Johnson and his team for “a great job” getting on site and extinguishing the fire.
The fire department worked at the site until about 9:30 p.m.
Johnson said a fire safety plan identifies where pole stations are, where exits are, and where fire alarms and fire extinguishers are in a building so firefighters can quickly assess a situation when arriving at the scene of a fire or potential fire.
“A fire safety plan is actually required under the fire code for any property that has 30 or more people in it, and any property that has a fire alarm or sprinkler system,” said Johnson. “It’s a safety document that has the layout of the place, all the owners’ names, the telephone numbers, who they would call for any of their repairs and stuff like that, so that we can basically get a floor plan, and we know where the breaker plans are, we don’t have to go searching for that stuff.”
“It’s always a benefit but just about all businesses here in town are required to have them,” said Johnson.
He also noted that public buildings and businesses required to have fire alarms, or with more than 60 people in them, are also required to have a lock box for the fire department to be able to quickly access keys and thus save time in entering the building and entering locked rooms inside.
“There’s also places, like the hospital, they’re not required to have a lock box because there’s always someone there,” he said. “There’s a lot of little nuances and rules. But we always go to places, even the hospital, and say, let’s get a lock box because that stops us from having to wait or find someone.”
Lock boxes can be ordered through the fire department for a fee of about $60, and then installed on the outside of the building near the front entrance. The fire department locks keys to the building inside the box and then keeps the lock box key, checking on the lock box and keys inside on an annual basis to ensure they’re in working order. This saves, Johnson said, “a lot of time.”
The fires made for a busy start to July, which has been hot with little rain, resulting in a county-wide fire ban declared just a few days later on July 7.
“The volunteers here did a wonderful job, they’ve shown their commitment here for the last couple of days and worked through this heat,” said Johnson. “It was very stifling. That’s one other thing, just in case, people may say I didn’t see the proper PPE and stuff like that, our guys wore the proper PPE until they determined it was safe, but it was better to go without it. It was very hot out there.”