But Yarmouth Fire Department Chief John Verrall also said everything didn’t completely go their way at the fire scene at the intersection of Argyle/William/Forbes streets where an unoccupied home was destroyed on April 20.
The spectacular fire drew a huge crowd, Verrall said, and this hampered and threatened firefighting efforts early on.
“Things could have gone better,” he said at the scene. “When we arrived on the scene we couldn’t get to a lot of the hydrants because of all the cars and the people watching. One guy hooked one of our main water supply lines with his car and took it away, we had to replace that.”
All of this, Chief Verrall said, cost firefighters time in trying to get at the fire, given the amount of parked vehicles and others driving to the scene.
“It was so bad we couldn't get at hydrants. We had to send trucks all around the town to get around all of the cars,” he said.
“People have got to stay away from the fire scenes,” said the fire chief. “Tell them John Verrall doesn't like people who run over our hose and put our operations in jeopardy.”
He said some people even drove their vehicles right up to the burning house as firefighters were still getting situated with equipment and manpower and hooking up to hydrants.
As the fire continued, so did the crowds, although later on not everyone was in the way. People, on foot, stood in a field, on lawns or in front of the church across the street from the fire. Many photos and video were being posted to social media.
In addition to the Yarmouth department, numerous county volunteer fire departments responded to the scene with equipment and manpower. Verrall said there was nothing that could be done to save the burning property, which was fully engulfed with flames shooting through the roof when firefighters arrived.
Hours later, however, he was in still in awe at how firefighters were able to protect the house immediately south of the burning structure.
“I used the word amazing because the first arriving unit arrived with two people, there were only two people on shift, and they stopped the fire from hitting that house. You saw, it was only over a foot away, that’s amazing,” he said. “They did such a good job there. If it wasn’t for them stopping that so fast I don’t know what would have happened, especially with people hindering our water supply.”
Fortunately firefighters were also aided by a lack of wind as they battled the blaze.
Alex Maillet owns the adjacent property that did see some damage to its north side but was spared from destruction. He was also impressed with how firefighters saved his structure.
As the evening went on an excavator arrived on scene to start knocking down sections of the burning structure to give firefighters more access to Maillet’s property, as they kept a steady stream of water on it.
“Them houses are close,” Maillet said, saying no one was in the house he owns at the time the fire broke out next door. At one point during the evening Maillet unlocked a back door so firefighters could gain eventually gain entrance to his property. He said when he first went inside the house it didn’t even smell of smoke.
As the evening went on the crowd watching did eventually start to thin out. Some who lingered commented on how different the streetscape would look with this property gone.
“You’re so used to the house being here,” said Dylan Surette. “It’s going to feel different coming past here.”
“It’s going to look weird because now there’s going to be three empty corners here,” said Chris Burke, who said the flames were remarkable at the height of the fire. “When you looked at the sky it was just pure orange. It was just engulfed in flames.”
Although the house was vacant and unoccupied, it had been on the radar of the RCMP and the fire department for some time as people were known to go inside and smoke, said one RCMP officer at the scene.
As to the cause of the fire, that was not immediately known. Chief Verrall said the scene commander would do an assessment to determine whether the matter should be turned over to the fire marshal for investigation.
The next morning the smell of smoke hung in the air as remnants of the charred building sat in a heap on the ground, having full been torn down by an excavator overnight. Next to it stood the pale yellow house firefighters had saved the night before. The siding on one side of the house was scorched. But the property was still standing.
This thrilled Yarmouth County resident Blair Poole who was one of many people driving by the scene Friday morning to survey the fire's aftermath. His mother-in-law and an uncle once lived in the home that the firefighters saved.
"They saved the homestead!" he exclaimed as he parked out front. Having seen photos and video on Facebook the night before of the inferno raging just over a foot away, he said he had been nervous about the fate of the property. It was a huge sense of relief to know it had been saved.
"Well done!" was the message Poole said he wanted to send to firefighters. "Well done!"