A fire destroyed a strip mall in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on March 3, and Fire Chief of Happy Valley-Goose Bay said it was only through partnership that it didn’t get worse.
Butler said the call came in around 5 p.m. and the department responded initially with one truck. When they arrived on scene and saw the fire, he called in a second fire truck and a rescue truck and made sure the adjacent gas station shut off its pumps.
“I immediately asked the employees in Woodward’s (gas station) to shut off the pumps, their emergency shut off switches, whatever they had to do to alleviate my concern on that,” he said.
That was quickly done, he said, and they called in the Serco firefighters up on the base through a mutual aid agreement they have with the armed forces.
He said the proximity to the gas station was still a big concern and they brought in a crash truck, which puts a large volume of water and foam quickly. Firefighters managed to keep the fire away from the business, however, which Butler said was a challenge.
The fire took a long time to put out, with hot spots still flaring up the next day. The cause of the fire is under investigation, which is mandatory in this circumstance. Butler said the fire spread quickly, and in his opinion, had probably been burning in the roof of the building for some time before it was visible.
While that one building was lost, the fire did not spread beyond it and Butler said that was through the tireless efforts of the volunteer firefights and the firefighters from Serco. He said everyone worked together well on this, from the gas station staff to the armed forces. It was prevented from spreading to the gas station, which could have been disastrous.
Traffic was shut down while the firefighters were battling the blaze on Loring Drive, leading to the base and the airport and on Hamilton River Road, one of the main traffic routes in town, it cut off some parts of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and made travel to nearby towns of Sheshatshiu and North West River impossible. Butler said shutting down the roads was necessary both for safety and logistical reasons.
Mayor Wally Andersen told the Labradorian that council will be looking at creating a secondary route so travel won’t be as limited in this type of situation. He agreed with the decision to close the roads for the safety of everyone.
“There’s no doubt that the town is going to have to sit down, we’re going to have to look at what would happen if this route is cut off,” he said. “The gas station is there and it will always be there and its right on that main intersection so council will have discussion in the near future on what we can do.”
He said he feels terrible for the 20-30 employees who lost work in the fire and the businesses who lost their spaces.
“It’s a big concern and a blow to the community,” he said. “That’s a lot of jobs in a community our size. We’ll pull together and make it through it, we always do.”
Andersen also praised the work of the firefighters who managed to keep the fire from spreading and making what was already a terrible situation worse.