Just after 8 a.m., March 2, a call was received about a house fire at 3420 Greenlane Road in East Hawkesbury Township. Firefighters from the township fire department were joined by their counterparts in Vankleek Hill and L’Orignal to try and extinguish a fire in a two-storey house during sub-zero weather conditions.
“The wind wasn’t helping us at all,” said Bryce Luker, East Hawkesbury Township fire chief, during a later interview. “The wind was driving the fire.”
Morning temperatures that day varied from minus 20 to minus 27 or lower, with the wind chill factor added. The intense cold added to the problems firefighters faced in dealing with the situation.
“We were battling frozen SCBAs, and frozen hoses,” said Luker, referring to the self-contained breathing apparatus firefighters wear to either go inside a building or to deal with heavy clouds of smoke while they man water hoses. “The sunshine was helping out a little for the guys.”
No one was in the house at the time. The occupant of the residence was away at work and returned to the scene later in the day while firefighters were still trying to bring the fire under control. A neighbour phoned in the report after spotting smoke from the house.
The fire began in the front area of the house and spread throughout the building, driven by the wind. The exact cause is unknown at present. Luker noted that there was a wood-burning stove in the building but that is not confirmed as the possible source of the fire.
The situation was brought under control by mid-afternoon. The damage to the house was so severe that a backhoe was brought in later to demolish the remaining structure.