Whistler firefighters wait for water for their hoses as the house burns.
Saturday, I woke up suddenly at 6:30 in the morning. It took me a minute to realize that a fire truck had just gone past my bedroom with it’s lights and sirens going full blast. I jumped out of bed and tuned in my radio scanner to the fire department frequency, and found that there was a huge fire just around the corner from my house. Listening to radio scanners is a bit of an art, but that morning I could hear real alarm in the voices of the firefighters.
The temperature overnight had been below -20 degrees celsius, and it was still -17 or -18 outside. The nearby fire hydrants had frozen overnight, and the firefighters couldn’t get them to work. While they were dealing with the hydrants, I walked up to the side of the house. I met a friend of mine, fire captain Al Eaton, who was still waiting for water for his hose, and we just sat there for a minute watching the house burn. Another two fire fighters tried to get in through a side door, but the smoke in the house was so dense they weren’t going to try an entry. About that time I noticed that smoke was starting to pour out of the vents and through cracks in the siding with the kind force you would normally see in a whistling tea kettle. It looked to me like the house was a huge bomb about to go off. I yelled over to Al that I was going to get out of there, and he said that was a pretty good idea.
By the time I got down to the road, the entire house was engulfed in flames. Later I checked the time codes on the photos, and the time between taking the picture of Al behind the house and the whole thing going up was less than five minutes.
Although the nearby hydrants being frozen made for a few tense moments, the fire department was able to get a line up to another hydrant within a couple of minutes. The house was beyond saving probably before the fire department even got there. I was only about 10 minutes behind them, and the place was nearly totally engulfed already.
Fire fighters contemplate an entry into the burning building.
The house is completely engulfed in flames.
A firefighter drags a hose to a working fire hydrant.
A house burns in Alpine Meadows. The fire stated in the chimney and spread to the structure.
Whistler Firefighter Keith Mellor gives it the business.
The strangest part of the story was that 12 hours earlier, I was covering another house fire in Alpine Meadows. This was a fire that started in the chimney and spread to main structure of the house. They were able to save the house, but I think it will be months before anybody is able to move back into the house.
Cameras: Nikon D3 x 2
Lenses: Nikon AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8, Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8, Nikon AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8
Emerald and Alpine House Fires – Whistler – David Buzzard Photography