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Fire ravages Harder Street house

Posted on March 17, 2022 by Maple Creek
Devastation: By 9.30pm on Tuesday, the Harder Street property was resembling a charred shell. Firefighters stayed at the scene overnight tamping down hot spots. By Wednesday, all that remained was a pile of rubble.

A pall of smoke hung over part of Maple Creek on Tuesday as fire crews battled a devastating blaze in Harder Street.
Throughout the afternoon, firefighters wearing breathing gear were confronted by dense, acrid smoke that swathed the unoccupied house. Once or twice the orange glow of flames was visible through the haze.
Efforts to enter the structure were made impossible by the treacherous state of wooden flooring. The slightest pressure could lead to a firefighter falling through the floor.
By nightfall, the full extent of the damage became much clearer.
The brick property had a charred, crumpled look, and had lost its roof.
Working beneath lights attached to the end of an extended ladder, firefighters used tools to dislodge leaning sections of brickwork.
It was shortly after 3.40pm that the News-Times was alerted to the blaze at 310 Harder Street, which is within walking distance of the newspaper’s office.
The brick property had a charred, crumpled appearance, and had lost its roof; it would not have looked out of place in a war zone, although thankfully there were no reports of any injuries. Properties either side seemed relatively unscathed.
They worked through the night to secure the site and tamp down smouldering debris.
Part of the street remained closed off, flashing lights from a fire truck illuminating the darkness.
By Wednesday afternoon, all that remained of the house was a pile of rubble, which was cordoned off. Traffic restrictions had been lifted.
It was shortly after 3.40pm that the News-Times was alerted to the blaze at 310 Harder Street, which is within walking distance of the newspaper’s office.
Reportedly, the place was unoccupied, the owners living in a ranch outside town.
Along with Maple Creek Community Fire Department, the RCMP and Emergency Medical Services were already at the scene.
The section of Harder Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues had been closed off to traffic, with vehicles blocking access.
Many members of the public lined the sidewalk, some using cellphones to capture the unfolding drama.
The fire department’s pumper truck, operated by Wayne Burton, deputy fire chief, was parked directly opposite the smoke-filled house. Down the street, towards the 3rd Avenue intersection, were two more fire trucks, an EMS vehicle and an RCMP car, with Sgt. John Phipps, the local detachment commander, standing nearby.
Burton invited the News-Times to stand on the pumper truck and take photographs.
It provided an insight into the life of a firefighter in the middle of an emergency. Either side of the pumper truck, long yellow hoses connected to fire hydrants snaked through the street, while a huge arcing jet of water from the ladder truck was directed at the upper storey of the property.
Burton was in constant contact with fire chief Blaine Becker, distinctive in his white helmet, and other fire department personnel, either face-to-face or via his radio.
Every so often he would pull one of six levers set together on a control panel; they had such labels as “tank to pump” and “No. 4 Discharge”.
He would also adjust the engine throttle.
One of the challenges was water supply. At about 3.50pm, there was a problem with a hydrant.
“We are switching the hydrant,” said Burton.
A few minutes later the issue appeared to have been resolved.
“We are ready to go,” Burton said into his radio.
Water was trained on the fire from several directions.
Firefighters could be seen through tree branches, examining the roof.
As the afternoon wore on, firefighters used bars to establish entry points for water jets. An axe was also wielded to remove overhanging tree branches.
After the front door had been removed thick dark smoke came pouring out.
Against the blackness, a small burst of orange appeared intermittently.
A firefighter was alerted and quickly extinguished the flames.
Every so often a firefighter would pull back from the scene, remove his breathing apparatus and tank, and take a few minutes of rest.
Meanwhile, a colleague would fill in, ensuring there was no break in momentum.
Many fire department members had names on the back of their vests: “Garrett”, “Wayne”, “Dayne”, “Chez”, “Ron”, “Trent”, Blaine”, “Tim”, “Jordan” and “Keegan”.
Late in the afternoon a truck arrived, bringing more oxygen tanks.
It had become clear that the operation was more one of containment than saving the property.
Outside the blackened front entrance was scattered debris, including pieces of pink cladding.
Claire Pollock, the minister at Diamond C. Cowboy Church, was en route to The Salvation Army Church and speaking to Major Ed Dean on her cellphone when she became aware of the fire.
“Smoke was pouring out of the windows,” she said. “It was just billowing.”
Her report prompted Major Ed to go to the scene in the Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services unit. There he set up a table bearing sandwiches and snacks for hungry firefighters. There were also bottles of water and canned drinks available.
As the News-Times was leaving the scene at about 6pm, deputy fire chief Trent Empey and Keith Stork, the former fire chief, approached the table.
After Empey sat down beside the Salvation Army unit for a moment’s rest, he was asked how long he had been at the scene. He shook his head.
“I have no idea,” he replied, adding that he never looked at his watch while out on a job.
Soon he was on his feet again, heading back into the billowing smoke that could be smelled many blocks away.

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