By Ezra Black
On the morning of Dec. 17, Sparwood Search and Rescue (SAR) were the ones in need of rescuing when a fire burned through their hall on Douglas Fir Road.
“By the time our members arrived, large amounts of smoke were pouring from the rear half of the building where a large amount of our emergency response equipment is stored,” said Ed Ehrler, SAR manager.
The call came in at around 9:40 a.m. and the Sparwood Fire Department was on scene within minutes.
Dean Spry, Fire Chief of the Sparwood Fire Department, said 18 firefighters worked in wind chill conditions of below -30 degrees Celsius to contain and extinguished the blaze before it could burn through to the offices and training room in the front half of the building. This allowed SAR personnel to move their response trucks away from the hall before they were damaged.
Spry said the fire was extinguished at around 10:11 a.m.
“We had units on scene within two minutes of the call coming in,” he said. “There were some challenging conditions. The cold plays havoc with our water but things went relatively easy.”
Nobody was hurt and the exact cause of the fire has not been determined at this time but it does not appear to be suspicious. Spry said the point of origin might have been one of the off-highway vehicles stored in the hall.
Ehrler said they would still be able to respond to search and rescue incidents. Their emergency response trucks, incident command trailer and snowmobiles were undamaged and nearby SAR groups have offered to provide operational support.
There were no injuries but Ehrler said preliminary estimates put losses at approximately $175,000 in vehicles and equipment destroyed or damaged, with the building itself suffering at least another $100,000 in damage.
“Nearly all of the equipment housed in the rear of the building was destroyed or heavily damaged by the intense heat and smoke including all three of our side-by-side all terrain vehicles (ATV’s), four inflatable boats, a trailer and a multitude of first aid and rescue equipment and tools,” said Ehrler. “In addition, the front half of the building and its contents suffered smoke damage throughout and the building has been left unusable for the foreseeable future.”
Sparwood SAR had been fundraising to make a number of general repairs and updates to their hall later in the new year, “but the timetable for this work will need to be moved up to line up with repairs to the fire damage,” said Ehrler.
While much of the cost should be covered by insurance, Ehrler expects there will be additional expenses to keep Sparwood SAR up and running.
“As a charitable non-profit organization we will gratefully accept any donations,” he said.
Donations can be made online by visiting Sparwood.vr-sar.org, by email at email@example.com or telephone at (250) 425-5913.