A Nakusp family is thankful after their fire protection system alerted them to a blaze at their downtown building this month.
Just after midnight on July 15, Janis and Shon Neufeld of Shon’s Bike and Ski on Broadway Street awoke to the blast of their fire alarm going off at full volume throughout their upstairs apartment and hostel, as well as the ground level bike shop and offices.
Janis moved quickly to check on four of their children, who were also sleeping upstairs, while Shon, in a move that most likely saved their home and business, grabbed his keys for the downstairs and headed out onto the deck. From there he was able to see the smoke coming from the first floor storage room at the back of the building, at the opposite end from the sleeping family. He moved so quickly he doesn’t recall even taking the stairs, but rather leaped down them from the second floor balcony.
Before Shon was able to get to the fire, he first unlocked the door leading to the bike shop where a fire extinguisher was mounted on the wall just inside. Grabbing that, he then unlocked the door to the storage room. The room was filled with smoke. Pointing the fire extinguisher towards the brightest spots he could see, Shon proceeded to go through two fire extinguishers before the fire was put out. Fire chief Terry Warren arrived on scene within 10 minutes as well as local RCMP. Warren inspected the area and gave permission for the family to head back inside as the fire was out completely.
So what caused this? Earlier in the day three of Janis and Shon’s teenage boys had been helping out by staining the deck of the building. Using rags to apply the stain, Kaleo, Silas and Elias Lampimaki spent about nine hours through the heat on a Saturday working hard. As they finished up, they threw the rags on the cement floor of the storage room, to dispose of later. Busy with their shop, neither Shon nor Janis thought to check this. At some point the rags, soaked in wood stain, spontaneously combusted, starting the fire.
Janis’ says her No. 1 takeaway from this terrifying experience is to be prepared. You can’t foresee everything, but if you are prepared and have safety and emergency gear at your fingertips, you have the possibility of dealing swiftly with a disaster that arises, as Shon did. Janis estimates it took two minutes from Shon getting up and moving to being at the fire with the extinguisher. Any longer and the fire may have started to catch at the exposed wood beams and furniture, she said. The series of safeties the Neufelds have in place made saving their home and business possible.
The fire alarm system was designed by an electrical engineer specifically for the building, complete with alarm bells. Janis said due to the size of the building and number of people potentially sleeping there because of the home and hostel, the alarm system required by code made the two business owners dizzy at the cost. Starting at roughly $20,000, it ended up being closer to $30,000 and was a huge expense on top of an already large business and home renovation undertaking. However, Janis and Shon say they’re thankful they had such a fire system. Integrated into every room in the building, with sensors placed specifically by the engineer, it saved their livelihood and most likely their lives.