Revelstoke firefighters were busy Thursday afternoon, tending to two blazes within an hour – first at Downie Timber and then downtown on Mackenzie Avenue.
First, Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services got called about a mill fire at Downie Timber at around 4:45 p.m.
“Fire crews arrived to find the chips in a cement vault on fire in the chipper area of the mill,” said fire chief Rob Girard. “Attack teams entered the confined space that was filled with smoke and flame with hand line to attack the fire.”
The fire was isolated to that space but was difficult to suppress due to the nature of the area, amount of fuel available and the fact it was in a confined space, Girard said.
While firefighters were battling that blaze, a call came in for a fire in the Selkirk Medical Building on Mackenzie Avenue.
An engine standing by at the Downie Timber fire was dispatched to the scene, said Girard, where they saw flames coming from the former location of Filigree Antiques & Unique Things at the corner of Mackenzie Avenue and First Street.
Over a dozen firefighters were soon on scene, ventilating the building and ripping open a wooden box at the front corner of the building that contained electrical equipment.
There was an odour of smoke, and some slightly-charred plywood was visible inside the box.
Girard said the flames were extinguished by staff at Conversations with a bucket of water and fire extinguisher. He said their actions prevented the fire from spreading.
“If it wasn’t for their quick action by being there, we would have been facing quite a different situation that what we had,” said Girard. “Especially being that it is in the downtown core and its heritage age and nature”.
Conversations Coffee House owner Pat Campbell told the Times Review she was next door having tea with friends when they heard a “pop” coming from the empty building. The coffee house and the empty shop are connected by a sliding metal gate.
Campbell said they joked it was a ghost that haunts the building, but soon after a man came in a told them he’d seen flames. They smelled smoke and left the building.
The Mackenzie Avenue fire was extinguished in 30 minutes and the Downie Timber fire was put out in less than 1.5 hours, Girard said. One firefighter sustained a minor injury at the Downie incident.
“The Mill is always of great concern to us when we get report of working fires because of the fire load and potential that is present,” said Girard. “Firefighters on both fires did a great job and I am very proud of them today.”
The Downie Timber fire was caused by an over-heated bearing in the chipper conveyor belt vault that caused the chips to ignite, said Girard. The cause of the Mackenzie Avenue fire is still being investigated but appears to be electrical in nature.