Two fires in the space of an hour — one at the Downie Street Sawmill and one in the vacant commercial space at the corner of First Street West and Mackenzie — put Fire Rescue personnel through their paces late Thursday afternoon.
A statement from Fire Chief Rob Girard said the fire at Downie occurred at 4:43 pm.
“Fire crews arrived to find the chips in a cement vault on fire in the chipper area of the mill,” he said. “Attack teams entered the confined space that was filled with smoke and flame with a hand line to attack the fire.”
They isolated the fire, which was difficult to suppress due to the nature of the area, amount of fuel available and the fact that it was a confined space on fire.
“While fire crews were battling this alarm, a second alarm came in at 5:36 pm for a working fire at 205 Mackenzie Avenue,” Girard said. .
“We had an engine standing by at the first call, ready and available to attend the second incident and we dispatched that engine, firefighters and Fire Inspector/Assistant Chief Roger Echlin to respond to the second incident.”
The fire was contained to the vacant commercial space on the first floor of the Selkirk Medical Building. “The flames were extinguished by the occupants of Conversations Coffee House with a bucket of water and a fire extinguisher.
Fire fighters checked for fire extension, ventilated smoke from the building and overhauled the fire in less than 30 minutes, said the chief.
“This was a very close call for that block,” he said the Girard. “Conversations Coffee house was actually closed, but luckily staff were still there when they normally would have been. If it wasn’t for their quick, we would have been facing quite a different situation than what we had… (due to the fact) it is in the downtown core and its heritage age and nature.”
There were no injuries to occupants or firefighters on the Mackenzie Avenue fire. Fire Crews on the Downie Street Fire extinguished and overhauled that fire in under and hour and a half and one firefighter sustained a minor injury.
The Downie Mill fire was attributed to an over-heated bearing in the chipper conveyor belt vault that caused the chips to ignite. The Mackenzie Avenue fire appears to be electrical in nature and is still under investigation by Echlin.