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'It's not a home invasion, it's a sinkhole': Falmouth homeowner, daughter make it out of collapsing house unscathed

Paul Maynard, Hantsport's deputy fire chief, looks at the massive sinkhole that developed underneath this Falmouth home.
Paul Maynard, Hantsport's deputy fire chief, looks at the massive sinkhole that developed underneath this Falmouth home.

FALMOUTH, N.S. — A Falmouth woman is still processing what transpired in the wee morning hours Sept. 3 but says she's thankful that no one was injured when her house began to collapse into a sinkhole.

“I just keep thinking, 'it's things not people, no one was hurt; these are things, they can be replaced,'” said Heather Strickey, mere hours after the initial 911 call.” There are so many more awful things that are happening in the world, like in Houston. We will work through this, we will be OK.”

Strickey said she awoke shortly after 3 a.m. to what sounded like a home invasion. She checked on her 16-year-old daughter and prepared to call the police.

“I pushed 911 on my phone but didn't actually dial – I wanted to be ready. I assessed for five minutes and I thought 'no, there's definitely something wrong here; there's definitely something happening downstairs,” said Strickey.

“We don't have pets so I knew the sounds had to be something wrong.”

After locking themselves safely upstairs, Strickey called 911 and stayed on with the 911 operator while the RCMP were dispatched. When the RCMP arrived, Strickey said “the emergency operator said 'it's not a home invasion, it's a sinkhole.'”

A heavy police and fire presence could be seen on Mountain View Drive in Falmouth Sept. 3 around 7 a.m.

Around 4:40 a.m., the Hantsport Fire Department was called to assist with the situation, as well as the Regional EMO and Wolfville's HAZMAT team, Deputy Fire Chief Paul Maynard said.

“They're very fortunate that they got out without injury,” said Maynard.

The firefighters secured the scene and helped retrieve a few items from the side of the home that was still stable.

“We did gain entry to one section of the house just to try to salvage some of the personal belongings of the residents here,” said Maynard, noting they retrieved purses, some photos and jewelry.

“They took the back wall off the garage and pulled my Tiguan to safety. Alas I have no keys,” said Strickey, noting that her keys were somewhere inside the sinkhole.

Although it was hard to see the devastation from the roadway, a sinkhole that's six to 7.5-metre deep and spans about half of the home developed sometime during the wee morning hours of Sept. 3.
A six to 7.5-metre deep sinkhole that spans about half of the home developed sometime during the wee morning hours of Sept. 3.

Maynard estimates the main sinkhole is roughly six to 7.5 metres deep – and spans half of the home.

“We don't really know what's even holding it (together) right now. There's a 20 to 25 foot hole completely underneath half of the home. It may just collapse within the hole here at anytime,” said Maynard.

“Because the sinkhole is continuing to expand, we're not sure how far it'll go so we want to make sure there's somebody here watching it until the engineer and insurance company can assess the damage.”

Although the sinkhole appears to be contained to the property, the neighbours have been alerted and advised to contact 911 should they hear cracking inside their homes.

The house, located on Mountainview Drive in Falmouth, is approximately 10 years old. Prior to the sinkhole developing, Maynard said the homeowners didn't experience any issues.

“There are a couple of other sinkholes, probably about five to six feet deep, that have just appeared while we were on site at the property. We're really not sure what's going on here,” said Maynard.

Strickey said she's also thankful for the emergency response that her family received.

Hantsport firefighters managed to retrieve some of the personal belongings before the sink made the home completely unstable.

“One thing that should be mentioned is the amazing support of the RCMP officers and the fire rescue team. They are professionals, fabulous and did everything to make this experience as good as it could possibly be of something that's so terrible,” she said.

The family will be staying with relatives while they work with the insurance company.

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