A house that was built in 1901 is a total loss following a fire last Thursday afternoon in Battleford.
The blaze happened at 82-26th Street. According to Fire Chief Larry Gabruch, the call came in at 1:34 p.m. of smoke coming from the basement.
All occupants were able to safely vacate the structure. That included the pets — the fire crews were able to get a pet rabbit out of the building.
Gabruch said this was a tough one for fire crews because of the age of the building and in particular how it was built. There was no separation from floor to floor, so once the fire has the opportunity to get to any exterior wall, “it has unabated travel vertically into the attic,” Gabruch said.
There were also no exterior windows in the basement so they were unable to initiate ventilation there. Because it contained all the gases and carbon particles and smoke, it meant the fire crews encountered lots of fire there. Gabruch said when you apply water to that situation it produces steam that reduces visibility to zero, and there was concern about the amount of fire load and heat seen. Instead, they used piercing nozzles punched through the floor.
But once the fire travelled to the exterior wall it was able to make its way to the attic. As well, when the fire crews arrived to do initial sizeup, the fire was already coming up through the basement.
It took the fire department six minutes to get to the scene and there were 21 firefighters on scene. It took them six hours to extinguish the fire.
According to Gabruch, they tried to suppress the fire in the basement but were met with “heavy fire load and smoke.” They attempted to extinguish the basement fire by punching piercing nozzles through the main floor down to the basement.
Worried about structural collapse, they retreated and went into defensive mode, using piercing nozzles on exterior walls on the main floor and the attic area. They were able to extinguish the fire in the attic and the hot spots that were remaining.
It is suspected a heating appliance in the basement was the cause, but the fire department has not yet been able to re-enter the building to determine the exact cause. In particular there are concerns about potential structural collapse and the scene is covered in ice due to the amount of water used.
Subject to what the insurance company wants to do, Gabruch said, they will probably demolish the building in the coming days.
According to the Historic Battleford Picture Book – A Keepsake Albumpublished by the Battlefords Northwest Historical Society in 2004, the two-storey house was built by pioneer Thomas Dewan. He came to Telegraph flats in 1875 as a telegraph employee, later becoming a trader, freighter, farmer, brick maker and carpenter.
Dr. Samuel T. Macadam and family lived in the house in the early 1900s. He was the Medical Health Officer for the Department of Indian Affairs at Battleford, appointed in 1889. He travelled to Onion Lake, Fort Pitt and Ile a la Crosse. He attended to a wounded Wandering Spirit, who was said to have attempted to commit suicide, and who was afterward convicted and sentenced to death. Dr. Macadam also ran a private practice in the house. The dispensary was in the east end of the verandah. He died in 1918.