By Andru McCracken

Out the back of Andreas and Karen’s place looks like a big mess, but it is a sign of the remarkable amount of labour the McBride Fire Department was willing to do to save damaging their home. By removing smouldering insulation and materials from the building before extinguishing them they ensured very little damage was done to the home. //KAREN LOVELL

The McBride District Volunteer Fire Department responded to a house fire at a First Avenue home at 8:43 am last Thursday morning.

Karen Lovell was inside.

“I woke up in the morning and I could smell a burning smell, but nothing I was familiar with,” she said.

“I went to switch the light on by the side of the bed [it didn’t come on] and thought it must have been a power cut.”

She went into the garage and checked the breaker box. Everything looked okay, but when she reentered the house the smell was stronger. She ran to the basement to see if there was something burning there.

Again, nothing was out of place.

An interior photo of some of the fire debris. All in all the place is in great shape. Karen and Andreas agreed that if they hadn’t been home at the time the electrical fire started, they would have likely lost the house and if the fire had happened in the night it could have been a disaster. //KAREN LOVELL

“I ran back upstairs and figured it was coming from the living room. The smell was really strong. I looked up and saw brown on the ceiling and I was sure there was none there before, then I heard a crackling.”

She woke up her partner Andreas Haugk.

“Sorry to wake you up,” she recounts telling him. “But I think we have a fire in the attic.”

For a moment they thought about fighting it themselves, but it dawned on Haugk it was time to call the fire department.

The pair called for assistance, got dressed and left the house with their dog.

“By the time we got outside, the fire department was on their way down the street,” said Lovell.

“It was incredibly fast – less than 10 minutes.”

Lovell said the caring and careful response of the fire department was incredible.

“They hardly used any water, only as much as they absolutely need to,” she said.

Rather than dousing the structure or punching holes in the roof, the fire crew carefully moved burning insulation outside of the home and doused it outside making sure to keep the structure of the home intact, while effectively fighting the fire and preventing its spread.

Haugk was impressed at the fire department’s calm professional demeanour and their thoughtfulness.

“The insurance adjuster said they had never been to a scene left in that good of a condition,” she said.

Haugk said if the fire didn’t happen at that time, they likely would have lost the house.

“I’m lucky it didn’t happen in the night. It would probably have been a disaster,” he said.

Follow up support and ongoing help

The Fire Department members weren’t the only people lauded for saving the house.

Power was disconnected because of the fire and that meant there was no power to a boiler for the infloor heating. Left to the elements, Haugk thinks his house would have turned into a ‘winter wonderland.’

He praised extraordinary measures taken by local electrician David L’Arrivee and local plumber Rod Whelpton for keeping the house warm, using a diesel generator and styrofoam covering the floor to keep the pipes from freezing.

“I’m grateful and so thankful for all those people and the community,” said Haugk.

Friends and some people the couple only know in passing and complete strangers made generous offerings for accommodation and all sorts of assistance

“We don’t have enough good things to say,” said Lovell. “It is just beyond words.”

Fire chief Dave Hruby said the cause of the fire was electrical.

“Everything went very well, there were no injuries and very little damage,” said Hruby.

“It’s a voluntary fire department, but I had to pull my hat for those guys,” Haugk said. “I don’t think you would get those efforts in the city.”