Weekend fire destroys Black Tusk Community Centre 

Fire chief says blaze could have been 'much, much worse' in summer conditions

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - battling the blaze  An early morning fire engulfed the Black Tusk Community Centre in flames on Saturday, Feb. 22.
  • Photo submitted
  • battling the blaze An early morning fire engulfed the Black Tusk Community Centre in flames on Saturday, Feb. 22.

An early-morning fire claimed a community centre on the shores of Pinecrest Lake this weekend—but it could have been much worse, said the Garibaldi Volunteer Fire Department chief.

Crews attended the scene of the fire in Black Tusk Village just after 4 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22 to find the Black Tusk Community Centre "completely engulfed in flames," said fire chief Dan Ross. No one was in the building at the time.

As it turned out, it was a structure Garibaldi firefighters were already familiar with as the site of numerous training exercises in the past.

"The situation we rolled up on was a very, very simple thing for me as someone in charge. Not having to affect a rescue or decide how much of somebody's home you're going to try and save," Ross explained. "Everybody knew what to do. Everybody knew exactly where to go. Everybody had been there, done that. It wasn't long before they dialled down most of the flames—but the place was just caving in on itself."

At press time, the investigation into the cause of the fire was inconclusive, although Ross said it started in the basement.

He added that the blaze was contained within 30 minutes and was completely extinguished within a couple hours—but Ross believes things could have been far worse.

"There were trees all around it that were half-cooked wood piles," he said. "If it had happened in the summer, I don't know how bad it could've been but it would've been much, much worse."

Ross said continuing to FireSmart the residential village south of Whistler would go a long way towards protecting it from fire.

"Little things like keeping debris away from your house. All those FireSmart pamphlets, all the stuff in there, it does help," he said. "That house in particular had a lake on one side and train tracks on the other, which would have made a fire break, but it could have gone either north or south towards more homes. It could have been quite a challenge."

Ross, who doubles as a Whistler firefighter, said a crew from the resort was the first to respond. Nine of the approximately 25 attending personnel were from Whistler.

For the volunteers who attended the blaze, it was a rare opportunity to put their training to good use, said Ross.

"It's great because these guys train, train, train, train and they never see any fires. They finally got one," he noted. "As far as things to catch on fire, it was almost a best-case scenario. It brought everybody together. We had a practice last night and everybody was pumped. It's totally going to validate all the training they ever did and it's going to renew their passion."

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