A home that caught fire in West Vancouver’s West Hill area Monday could have been severely damaged had it not been for a water pipe that burst in a downstairs wall, according to firefighters.
Residents of the house in the 2600-block of Chelsea Court were at home at about 10 p.m. when they smelt burning. Firefighters arrived to find the elderly couple outside and grey smoke billowing from the basement and both upper floors. After setting up ventilation, crews dove into the structure, eventually tracking the source of the smoke to a basement storage room. The flames were still burning, but they had been kept in check by a nearby water pipe that had ruptured in the heat.
“(It) helped keep that fire at bay for sure,” said division fire chief Martin Ernst. “This is a wood-frame home. . . . It doesn’t take long for a wood structure that is non-sprinklered to really get out of hand.”
Although the flames had been slowed down, it nonetheless took firefighters another hour to put them out.
“It was a stubborn fire, because it was in a ceiling and a wall space,” said Ernst. “It was burning the wood joists and all the contents around it, and it was initially really challenging to find.”
Given the smoke damage throughout the high-end home and the moderate damage to the structure, Ernst pegged the cost of repairs at about $150,000. The outcome could have been much worse, however, he noted.
The family members who lived on the upper floors were out of town at the time. The elderly couple, who were living in a downstairs suite, appeared to have escaped unscathed. They were right to leave the house as quickly as they did, said Ernst.
“More and more people, we’re finding, are realizing that going back into a structure that's on fire — to get valuables and pets and things like that — is bad for you,” he said. “Modern smoke is unforgiving. It’s not like the old days when things were made of wood. . . . The toxicity of smoke is definitely higher.”
The cause is still under investigation, but for now firefighters suspect the fire was triggered by an electrical fault.