The St. Albert Fire Department is reminding residents to practise fire and barbecue safety after a Thanksgiving weekend fire caused major damage to a St. Albert home.
A resident on Patterson Crescent was cooking a brisket in a high-heat pellet smoker close to his deck on the morning of Oct. 11. He stoked up the fire, put a fresh batch of wood on it, and headed inside. About 15 minutes later, his neighbour knocked on his door to tell him his house was on fire, said Rene Dubord, captain at Fire Station #3.
“He said, ‘No, no, that’s my smoker. But (his neighbour) said, ‘No, your house is on fire, I’ve already called the fire department,” Dubord said.
“When you got a smoker going in your backyard, if something was even smouldering a bit and you didn’t notice it, you wouldn't smell it because it smells like smoke anyway.”
were called in to respond to the two-alarm fire at approximately 11 a.m.
High winds had pushed the heat and sparks out of the stack on the barbecue toward a planter on the deck railing, melting it down and igniting the deck, Dubord said.
“He thought his barbecue was far enough away from the deck, which it probably would have been if it hadn’t been windy.”
When firefighters came around the back of the house, they saw the deck and wooden siding was on fire as the flames stretched into the attic space.
"As soon as they started putting out the deck and the siding, they noticed it went up into the office and into the attic. So they had to go up on the roof, chainsaw some of the roof off to get access so they could put the trusses out,” Dubord said.
Crews were on scene until around 6:30 p.m. to ensure the fire was put out. They also had to take out all the insulation in the attic to ensure there weren’t any hot spots left, he said.
“What happens is the trusses burn inside the house, and a lot of the ashes fall on insulation and it smoulders in the insulation,” he said. “(Taking out the insulation) gives us a little more reassurance it's not going to be rekindled.”
No one was injured in the fire. Without the quick action of residents and the fire department, the situation could have been much worse, Dubord noted.
“Another five, 10 minutes, he probably wouldn’t have a roof on his house,” he said.
The fire caused $150,000 in damages. The deck, the balcony, and the wooden siding were lost in the fire. The roof will also have to be pulled off to repair the trusses, Dubord said, which is no easy fix. Luckily there was no damage done to the interior part of the house, save for one broken window and some smoke.
The fire serves as a reminder for residents to make sure to not leave cooking unattended, and to keep barbecues and smokers away from anything that could catch fire, Dubord said – especially as the weather changes and people spend more time indoors.
“People are going to start going inside while they're cooking on their appliances and then leaving them to sit there until it's closer to being done. Try to make sure you watch from a distance if you’re not going to be outside paying attention to your barbecue.”