Kitchener Ontario Fire Dispatch was extremely busy May 5, 2020 with multiple fires coming in minutes apart. Dispatch is responsible for all fire calls in the Region of Waterloo with a population of approximately 610,000. There are three full time departments, Kitchener (7 stations), Cambridge (6 stations), and Waterloo (4 stations). The four township departments are paid-on-call. The largest of these department is Woolwich (6 stations), then Wellesley (3 stations), Wilmot (3 stations), and North Dumfries with one station. Cambridge is contracted to cover 40% of the township for the first hour.
Tuesday, May 5 had been a relatively quiet day for dispatch with just a handful of calls. That all changed at approximately 14:20 when four of the Cambridge stations were dispatched to a possible structure fire at 144 Franklin Street North. Firefighters arrived and reported smoke and fire visible on the E4 side and were informed that homeless people had exited the abandoned building before crews arrived.
Numerous hand lines were pulled to attack the fire which was knocked down in 20 minutes. Access to the house was difficult due to the northbound lane of Fountain Street being closed for construction.
Cambridge’s remaining two stations were dispatched to a brush fire on Hespeler Road at this time, and just to keep dispatch busy, Waterloo was dispatched to an automatic alarm in an apartment building, which was updated to smoke in the hallway prompting a third station to be dispatched.
I was responding to the call and was halfway there when dispatch toned out Elmira, Floradale, and St Jacobs for a possible structure fire at 81 First Street West. Firefighters from the Elmira station reported heavy smoke visible from their hall.
Three Box 690 members were on scene at the Cambridge fire, so I turned around and headed north to cover the Elmira fire where three other members helped me. Elmira had arrived to a fully-involved, single-story group home, with heavy fire through the roof. The Elmira pumper was out for the annual pump test so Tank 612 was first out. One 65 mm and three 45 mm lines were pulled to attack the fire and protect the exposure on the C-side. Elmira’s quint picked up a hydrant on Flamingo Street and setup for tower operations in addition to putting two 45 mm hoses into operation. A passerby alerted residents and staff of the fire and all safely exited the building before firefighters arrived. The fire was knocked down in 45 minutes. Fire is believed to have started in a shed on the E2 side of the building. Photos were taken approximately 25 minutes into the Elmira fire. Box 690 provided rehab at both fires.
The Cambridge Fire Department (ON) burned a large house and barn at 120 Blenheim Road May 1, 2019. Box 690 had been requested to provide rehab for the burn.
Lots of shots and video from the two burn downs, which are always fun to photograph. Firefighters had done some live-fire training on the house over the last couple of months. The buildings were being burned to allow a new house and garage to be built on the property.
Cambridge, (ON) P31, P35, A33, A34, R31, and Car 323 were dispatched to a structure fire at 201 Beverly St April 24 at 9:55. P35 reported they could see heavy smoke while responding to the fire. P35 arrived on scene reporting a large vacant building with heavy fire on the C – D side of the building extending from the first floor to the roof of the building.
Due to multiple previous fires at the former Joy Manufacturing building, all firefighting was defensive. There were holes in floors and needles throughout the structure. Police reported 12 homeless individuals were known to be living in the building.
Firefighters laid in from two hydrants to A34 and P35. A34 set up their aerial to attack the fire in the roof, while P35 pulled numerous lines to the rear of the plant. A33, a 60’ quint was replaced by A36, a 110’ platform which could reach the roof to pull off the fiberglass siding. Two piercing nozzles where used on the D side to get at the stubborn fire.
The fire was declared under control two hours after arrival. Primary and secondary searches where completed once the visibility in the building allowed firefighters safe access. Damage was set at $200,000. Box 690 provided rehab, photos taken 30 minutes into the fire.
Cambridge (ON) fire dispatch received a 9-1-1 call for fire in a large industrial complex February 22, 2019 at 19:25. A3, P1, A6, P2, R1, and Car 6 were dispatched on the first alarm. A3 arrived on scene reporting light smoke showing from a middle unit of a 225 x 60’ industrial building. The fire had a good hold of the roof. The roof was steel on top and bottom and had multiple layers of asphalt from repairs and new roofs added to the building over the years.
Both aerials and multiple hand lines were pulled to attack the fire as firefighters did what they could to peel the roofing off to get at the fire. The roof was buckling, so no firefighters were allowed near the seat of the fire. Trench cuts were made to stop the fire from spreading to adjacent units. This was a very stubborn fire. Overtime crews were called in to staff spare apparatus. All six stations and the overtime crews were rotated to the scene to fight the fire. The fire was not declared out until 8:25 the following morning after a lot of hard word. Box 690 provided rehab at the fire. Photos and video taken two hours into the fire.
Cambridge (ON) Fire dispatch toned out P2, A6, A3, P1, R1, and Car 6 for a possible fire at the Ontario Provincial Police station at 500 Beaverdale Road at 14:24. P2 reported a thermal column enroute, and fire through the roof on arrival. A6 was second due at the fire and set up it’s aerial for master stream operations. A hydrant was picked up on the east side of the fire to supply P2 and A6. Interior firefighters reported they couldn’t open up the ceiling to get into the attic. The roof was reinforced so no one could exit through it or get into the station through the roof. The firefighters were pulled from the building and A6 was ordered to open up their nozzle. Crews tried to trench cut the roof but were pulled off quickly due to fire already running the length of the structure.
Firefighters pulled a four-inch supply line to a second hydrant on the west side of the fire, the only other hydrant available in the area. Multiple lines were used to attack the fire. P5 was added to the call as firefighters were battling high heat and the heavy fire. Off-duty crews were called in to staff spare equipment. The fire was brought under control in two hours. Firefighters were rotated through rehab to keep well hydrated. There were four new fighters at the fire having been hired as part of a new station opening.
Damage was set between $1 to $1.5 million. The Ontario Fire Marshal and Cambridge Fire Prevention are investigating the cause of the fire. Box 690 served 197 cold drinks, numerous snacks, and dinner. The Cambridge mayor said they could not have scripted a major fire less than half an hour after officially opening a new station. A6, a 2018 Pierce 110’ Ascendant platform was placed in service at 7 am when the first firefighters moved into the station prior to the grand opening. Photos and video shot 25 minutes into the fire.
Gary Dinkel, Box 690
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Cambridge, Ontario P2, P1, A6, R1, and Car 6 were dispatched to 51 Livingstone Crescent for a dryer fire January 17, at 20:30. The closest station to the call was Station 3 but A3 was on a medical call. P2 arrived and reported some smoke showing and all occupants were out of the building.
P2 pulled a line into the basement reporting heavy smoke, and near zero visibility. A hydrant was picked up as firefighters performed primary searches of the first, second, and third floors while fire attack looked for the source of the fire in the basement. The fire was located at the rear corner of the basement and quickly knocked down. Basement windows were taken out so ventilation could be performed by the attack crew. A3 cleared from their call and command had them return to their station as the fire was knocked down.
Three firefighters were sent to perform a secondary search of the house and while on the second floor they reported the lights had gone out. Within a couple of minutes heavy black smoke was showing from the first and second floor. A minute later both floors flashed over. Two firefighters were able to exit via the stairs while a third had to bail out a second floor window onto the garage roof. He was transported to hospital with second degree burns and wass released the next morning. His gear and SCBA saved his life.
The entire building was now fully involved, and fire came through the steel roof within minutes. A6 was setup quickly to protect exposures, and A3 was added to the call, ordered to grab another hydrant, and get their aerial up. Large lines were pulled to attack the fire and protect exposures. A third hydrant was pulled from Newport Drive as A6 didn’t have enough water to supply their bucket and lines. A4 and P5 were added to the call necessitating call-in of off-duty crews to staff spare apparatus now that all six stations were on scene.
The upper two floors collapsed 30 minutes after the flashover and the fire was brought under control in two hours. One station remained on scene all night, and others are still on scene chasing hot spots. Due to the collapse, firefighters can’t go into the structure to work on fully extinguishing the fire. The Ontario Fire Marshall is on the scene to investigate the cause. Damage is pegged at more than $750,000.
Box 690 provided rehab. My photos and video were shot 25 minutes after the flashover. Box 690 member Dave Westwood’s photos taken immediately after the flashover.
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