The two fires overnight on Feb. 7 dealt the Pitt Meadows Fire Department as much as they could handle.
Acting fire chief Brad Perrie said in his 29 years with the department, there have never been two major fires in such a short time frame.
“Not that close together – never two big ones like that,” said Perrie.
He has heard speculation the fires were connected, but clarified that is not the case.
“They’re not linked in any way – it was a coincidence,” he added.
In terms of response, he said the timing between the two fires was enough to allow for a prompt response.
The first fire was at Loveridge Farm, in the 20100 Block of Old Dewdney Trunk Road, where the dairy farm lost a barn, another farm building and about 24 cows.
That call came in at approximately midnight, and Perry said 18 firefighters turned out. They worked to control the massive fire in freezing conditions.
Icicles formed on their helmets as they worked, and Perry said they were tired from fighting the fire, but they weren’t done yet.
They were just in a mop-up phase at the dairy farm when the call for the second fire came in at approximately 5:20 a.m. on Feb. 8. Two warehouse buildings were completely destroyed by the fire on Ford Detour Road.
Firefighters at the dairy farm were ready to take equipment from the scene, leaving a crew of six and Perrie. They had all the equipment back on a ladder truck and an engine.
“Guys were tired after the first fire,” said Perrie. “We were just having a coffee break, and the tones [call] came in.”
“If it had happened a couple hours earlier, it would have been a little crazy. We might have had to call on Maple Ridge.”
The two cities have a mutual aid agreement for fire protection.
Mike Larsson, who is also an acting fire chief with Perrie, took a crew of 12 to the second fire.
It was a hazardous fire, fueled by diesel containers inside fueling the blaze, and with live hydro wires on the ground outside.
Larsson noted there were also medical calls that came in while the department was dealing with the fires. They were just finishing at the second scene when storm winds created more calls. With power out at intersections, there were two collisions firefighters attended.
“Our guys did incredible,” said Larsson.
The department is due to hire two more full-time firefighters, with a start date on March 4, and those safety technicians will make a difference in response times, taking on work done after a major fire call, said Perrie.
The amount of cleanup after a fire is considerable. All of the firefighters turnout gear must be washed, hoses washed and hung, trucks decontaminated, equipment checked and cleaned, and everything made ready for the next fire call.
Perrie said the additions will also allow for two firefighters to be on duty from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., so if there is a fire call, a truck can roll as soon as two more on-call firefighters arrive at the hall.
“It will also ease the POCs not having to come and do medical calls on weekends,” said Perrie.
“It will speed us up, and make us a little more efficient.”
Perrie said the cause of the fires is undetermined, and in both cases there is so much damage, and such large scenes, that the causes may not be known, and remain undetermined.
Insurance investigators were still at the scenes on Tuesday, he said.