Ahousaht had been without running water for 12 or so hours when the call came over the radio that smoke was coming out of the windows of a trailer on the reserve. The men working tirelessly on the water situation, also make up most of our volunteer fire department. Many other firefighters were also out of town, but those that were here responded in force. Bucket brigades were set up while the tanker truck and hoses were hooked up. The hydrant, 50 feet away, was useless.
The smoke could be seen from our home, a big black pillar towering over the trees. By the time I arrived the trailer was already fully engulfed in flames. The windows were blown out and the roof had begun collapsing. RCMP were on scene to begin investigating the cause. At that point we could not determine if anyone had been inside at the time. Though no one was living in the home, people had been seen inside at night. We don’t believe anyone was inside, thankfully and no one was injured during the firefighting.
Men and women were dumping buckets on the fire with what little water they could find. A truck was taken down to the docks to fill up containers with sea water. The trailer itself would be impossible to save so efforts were put on dampening a nearby home. It’s siding had already begun to warp from the heat. Someone climbed on top of the roof to pour buckets from the top. When the tanker truck was set up they were able to use a hose to better soak the neighbour’s house and then begin knocking the flames back.
When the truck’s tank ran out they had to drive around to the water treatment plant. While they were there the fire flared up significantly again. One man kept up his own bucket line from a tub of sea water, putting out flare ups in the grass. It took three refill trips to knock the fire down to a point where they were content to let it smoulder for the night.
It was scary and emotional to watch the trailer burn. It had been several families homes over the years. For me personally – One of my dog’s previous owners used to live there and my dogs would run up to their porch when they could. Now it’s a heap of blackened rubble.
The fire exacerbated our water struggle but also provided a distraction. When we all went home there was still no tap water, no water in our toilet tank and still no showers. I had soot in my hair and reeked of smoke. I can’t imagine how it must of been for the men right in the midst of it.
All photos copyright Marcie Callewaert.