Base platoons play integral role in fighting fire


Taken between 2:45 and 3 a.m., these photos show the blaze at its peak.

It only took three minutes for CFB Esquimalt firefighters to respond to the 2:30 a.m. emergency call last Tuesday; however, when they arrived on scene the Tudor House was already engulfed in flames.

“As soon as I pulled out of the station I saw flames three metres above the roof,” says Battalion Chief, Randy Morton.

Bright orange flames were consuming both floors of the building and the unique castle-like tower. But the fire hadn’t quite taken the beer and wine store, and Morton knew it wouldn’t be long before the alcohol inside became fuel for the fire.

With no one inside the building, Morton and the Incident Commander from Esquimalt Municipal Fire decided their mission would be to contain the fire to the 109-year-old structure and keep surrounding buildings safe.

The two fire departments, which have a mutual aid agreement, set up a perimetre of people and equipment, dousing the structure with water from three hydrants to ensure the flames wouldn’t reach the building next door, which housed residents and several businesses.

“It was in such close proximity to the building behind it, it would have set that building on fire,” says Morton.

Even though firefighters managed to contain the fire by about 4:20 a.m., smoke from the blaze migrated through open windows in the next building setting off fire alarms. Residents were being evacuated.

Adding to the inferno was alcohol from the bar and grease from the kitchen fryer. There was also a gas line that had to be closed off. Fortis BC employees arrived at 3:30 a.m. and dug into the ground with a backhoe to manually pinch the line.

Eliminating at least one fuel source for the fire went a long way to help crews douse the flames, but the age of the building made the job challenging, says Morton.
“Given the old construction of the building, it didn’t have the fire stops that newer buildings have – fire protection, sprinkler systems etcetera – so the fire just worked its way through.”

Unable to get inside due to the intensity of the blaze, fire crews could only watch the flames migrate through the building.

“We could see it going through the building but we couldn’t get in there to stop it from extending from one section to another,” says Morton.

As the structure collapsed, firefighters were unable to reach the smoldering hot spots that were feeding the fire.

By the time shift change rolled around at 7 a.m., firefighters were still working to reach those spots; by mid-morning a second backhoe was brought in to remove the walls and debris that blocked the water’s path.

It took several days for fire fighters to get to all the smoldering embers, allowing a clean-up crew to come in and remove the rubble.

The pub’s owners hope to rebuild now that the history book has closed on this piece of Esquimalt history.

-Carmel Ecker, Staff Writer

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  1. Mary Ellen says:

    I am so sad to hear about the Tutor House the next morning. I used go there and play pool almost every Sunday. I feel bad for the owners, all the memborable items that were inside. Not only Sports stuff Military item as well. Very sad time for Esquimalt people. Hopefully they will re-build.

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