Many residents in Grand Falls-Windsor noticed a startling sight on Monday evening just before sunset; large clouds of thick smoke coming from somewhere in town.
Fire crews quickly responded to what Fire Chief Vince Mackenzie called a “substantial roof fire” at the Nova Central School District board office on Price’s Ave in Grand Falls-Windsor.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in the fire, and the damage to the inside of the structure was limited to minor smoke and water damage.
“All the damage was done to the roof,” said Chief Mackenzie.
Though the investigation is ongoing to determine the cause of the fire, Chief Mackenzie confirmed that the building was in the process of being re-roofed, and there was a crew working on the roof the day prior to the blaze.
“There were reports of explosions, but we haven’t determined what that was,” he said, adding there were cans of roofing material on the roof that may have been involved in the fire.
“Once we got on the scene, the fire was knocked down very quickly, I’d say within ten or fifteen minutes.”
Though the fire itself posed no great challenge to the experienced crews in Grand Falls-Windsor, Chief Mackenzie said the main issue was actually getting close to the scene.
“Where the fire was so visible throughout town and it was on the horizon during sunset, everyone (in town) could see it and made their way down there before the fire department was even called,” he said.
According to Chief Mackenzie, the traffic congestion caused by curious onlookers was enough to delay the response and give the fire crews trouble getting to the scene.
“I responded in my own personal vehicle and I was very hampered in getting up there, and the same with the fire trucks, the traffic was just crazy,” said Chief Mackenzie. “People were failing to yield and pull over – the whole works.”
Chief Mackenzie said for the sake of their own safety and the safety of others residents should avoid flocking to the scene of an emergency.
He also said people need to keep in mind the rules of the road when it comes to emergency response vehicles like police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances.
Drivers on either side of the road that see an emergency vehicle coming in either direction with their lights or siren on should pull over to their right and come to a complete stop.
“Even if the fire truck is approaching you in the other lane you’re supposed to pull over because the vehicle might have to pull around and pass somebody,” said Chief Mackenzie.
He added that often drivers will pull to the side and keep driving, which is also unacceptable in these situations.
“It makes is very nervous when we’re driving emergency vehicles, because we don’t know what the driver is going to do,” he said.
Fortunately, Monday’s fire was minor, but in some emergency situations even a delay of just a few minutes could mean life or death.
“The whole road is supposed to be cleared,” said Chief Mackenzie. “It’s the law, you have to pull over and stop whenever you see flashing lights and hear sirens.”