Residents quell blaze at seniors home – despite lack of 911 call

Photo: Korie Marshall - Remains of a mop that caught fire when equipment overheated in a boiler room at Golden Years Lodge. Nobody was hurt, but some serious fire protocol oversights at the lodge were made obvious.
Photo: Korie Marshall – Remains of a mop that caught fire when equipment overheated in a boiler room at Golden Years Lodge. Nobody was hurt, but some serious fire protocol oversights at the lodge were made obvious.

by KORIE MARSHALL

An early morning alarm and some quick actions by a resident at the Golden Years Lodge meant there were no injuries because of a small fire at the senior’s centre. But it’s a good warning to many to review fire safety and to remember to call 911.

Rich Meyer says the hallway smoke alarms went off at 5:10 Wednesday morning, Nov. 25th. He had been the caretaker of the building for 11 years, and continues to live there with his wife since retiring nine years ago. He says he checked all the 13 suites, and made sure everyone was up and out of their rooms, in case an evacuation was necessary, but they hadn’t yet seen a sign of fire.

“I know every inch of the building,” says Meyer, so he started searching for the fire, and found it in one of the three boiler rooms downstairs. He says there was a 220 volt HVAC unit, and something had gotten so hot that the operator’s manual was burning, as was a cloth mop sitting in a bucket. He grabbed a fire extinguisher – he says there are lots of them all over the building – and quickly put out the flames and moved what was left of the bucket and mop outdoors.

“There was an awful smoke,” says Meyer, something he could still slightly smell in the downstairs hall even the next day. He says there are a couple of lessons he’s learned; first is to make sure nothing (like mops and buckets) are kept in the equipment rooms; and second – to make sure he calls 911.

He says the current caretaker and the administrator arrived around 8, and though 911 wasn’t called, members of the fire department did attend later, and are aware of the situation.

“I knew I could handle it, but I know now I should have called 911,” says Meyer.

Fire Chief Rick Lalonde says the alarm system at the centre is not directly connected to 911, a matter of additional cost; a resident needs to call, and no one did.

“That needs to be updated,” says Lalonde of the alarm system’s connection to 911 services.

He adds there’s another factor at play.

“They don’t want to bother anyone.”

Lalonde says it’s fortunate that a resident was able to extinguish the blaze, which had potential for something far worse.

Marion Farquharson, administrator for Valemount’s senior housing, says the boiler rooms are fire proof, and representatives from BC Hydro, the technician from the boiler system company and the fire department were all on site on Wednesday to determine the reason for the failure which led to the fire. She says Houle Electric sent a team from Kamloops on Thursday to ensure the fire alarm system was re-set and checked. The Centre’s backup propane heating system has been put into use.

“Everyone behaved in the most exemplary way,” says Farquharson. “Thankfully there was absolutely nobody hurt but of course it is a timely warning for everyone in the whole Village, to make sure that they, like us, keep all fire precautions up to date and be vigilant at all times especially in this very cold snap.”

She says the residents have a regularly scheduled meeting on the first Tuesday afternoon of each month, so this incident will be discussed at the next meeting on Dec. 1st.