No one was injured after a fire broke out at a home on James White Boulevard in Sidney Tuesday afternoon — but with ammunition exploding in the heat, the situation could’ve been much worse.
Sidney Fire Chief Brett Mikkelsen says firefighters responded quickly and found that the fire was within an outbuilding and they knocked it down fast. Crews, he added later, heard popping in the building and at first believed it might have been aerosol cans or other items commonly found in sheds or garages, bursting in the heat.
However, after a “rapid succession of pops,” Mikkelsen said firefighters backed out of the structure, realizing it was something else — ammunition for firearms stored in the building. He said they met with RCMP officers at the scene and made a risk assessment, ending up dousing the structure with their water cannon to get the heat down and stop the ammunition from exploding.
Mikkelsen said the man who lives there was out front when the fire broke out and told firefighters that his wife was still in the house and she was rescued. The fire chief added the firearms and ammunition in the structure at the time weren’t likely on the man’s mind.
“I don’t think the resident wanted to put us at risk,” Mikkelsen added.
To keep the firefighters safe, they were kept out of the structure until the water cannon did its job. Mikkelsen said had they known there was ammunition in the building, they would have approached the fire differently. Having said that, he added they did what they could to stay safe and still control the blaze.
“There was more risk than we would have liked.”
Mikkelsen sad he was pleased with his department’s response time, as well as that of the North Saanich and Central Saanich fire departments, which also sent trucks and crews to the scene. All three Saanich Peninsula municipalities now respond to structure fires in each other’s jurisdictions under a recently-updated mutual aid agreement. Mikkelsen said it works well, and had there been another incident in Sidney at the same time, there would have been enough resources on hand to respond.
An investigation into the cause of the fire has ended. Mikkelsen said Wednesday the damage caused by the fire makes any determination of the cause difficult. He added there’s nothing suspicious about the fire, saying investigators are unlikely to delve any further.