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Fire that destroyed generator shed at Killdevil Camp in Gros Morne could have been much worse

The generator that supplied power to Killdevil Camp was lost in a fire that struck the shed in which it was located at the site in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The generator that supplied power to Killdevil Camp was lost in a fire that struck the shed in which it was located at the site in the early hours of Wednesday morning. - Contributed

Mac Turner is thanking the onsite caretaker for taking quick action to minimize damage caused by a fire at Killdevil Camp early Wednesday morning.

Turner, who is the Anglican church camp’s executive director, said caretaker Derrick Young had gotten up to use the washroom at around 3 a.m. when he noticed the electricity had been knocked out at the site.

Knowing immediately something was amiss, Young went to check on the camp’s generator shed and saw flickering flames and smoke billowing from the rear of the small building.

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Young immediately notified the camp director who woke up the 54 young girls — aged between 11 and 14 years old — who were attending a camp at the site this week. The Southside Fire Department, which services the southern shores of Bonne Bay, was also called to extinguish the fire.

After all the campers were accounted for at a pre-determined muster station, they were taken a short distance away to the Lomond River Lodge. There, they were entertained and distracted from the scary events they had just experienced.

The shed was destroyed in the fire, but Turner said it could have been worse as there was a tank containing around 7,000 litres of fuel near the shed.

“The heat was so intense that it buckled the generator,” Turner said of the precarious situation.

The fuel tank was compromised, too, but it never leaked. The radiant heat from the fire peeled off the paint and affected the structural integrity of the tank, which will have to be replaced.

Turner said a mechanism in the fuel tank shut off the otherwise continuous fuel feed to the generator from the tank.

The fire was extinguished quickly, thanks in large part to the fire department being able to pump water from the camp’s nearby swimming pool.

“I don’t think there was enough water in their pumper to put the fire out, but they had access to more than enough water to do the job with the pool,” said Turner.

Besides generators, the camp also lost propane heaters and some maintenance supplies stored in the shed.

The campers were given the OK to return to the camp by the fire department at around 7 a.m.

The camp’s kitchen facilities run on propane, so Turner said there was no problem for staff to whip up a big breakfast for the weary, worried campers and leaders.

The campers, who had been up since around 3 a.m., were told to go back to bed for the rest of the morning and their program at Killdevil resumed Wednesday afternoon.

The camp’s insurance company was quickly on the scene with an adjuster, electricians and a restoration crew at the site by around midday. Officials from Parks Canada, which operates the water supply that is shared with Killdevil Camps were also involved in responding.

Portable generators to restore electricity and running water were up and running by Wednesday evening.

“We were happy with how everyone responded,” said Turner. “There was no panic and everyone was evacuated no problem and the response from the fire department, Parks Canada and the insurance people was just fantastic.

“We’ve never had an incident like this, so we’re glad to know our emergency response plan works.”

Turner said the fire was a tough blow, especially since the camp had just started to recover from flood damage caused by the heavy rainstorm and snow melt that wreaked havoc throughout western Newfoundland this past January.

The flood had damaged the same generators lost in this week’s fire and the machinery had only just been repaired and returned to the camp.

“We just had them back in operation and thought our troubles were over, then this fire happens,” said Turner.

There was hardly anything left of the generator shed at Killdevil Camp after it was gutted by fire early Wednesday morning.
There was hardly anything left of the generator shed at Killdevil Camp after it was gutted by fire early Wednesday morning.

 

This tank containing around 7,000 litres of fuel was damaged when fire ripped through an adjacent generator shed at Killdevil Camp early Wednesday morning.
This tank containing around 7,000 litres of fuel was damaged when fire ripped through an adjacent generator shed at Killdevil Camp early Wednesday morning.

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