A weekend garage fire on Concession 2 Road was the perfect venue for Niagara-on-the-Lake’s volunteer firefighters to show their stuff.
At 3:55 p.m. on Sunday, July 10, a garage fire on Concession 2 was reported to NOTL Fire & Emergency Services.
At 3:56, NOTL firefighters were on route to the scene.
By 4:02 they had arrived.
At 4:07 p.m., the fire was being doused with water. No one was injured.
That marks a total of 12 minutes for the volunteers to be on scene and fighting a potentially life-threatening fire.
“For a volunteer firefighting department, it’s absolutely unbelievable,” deputy fire chief Jay Plato said at the scene.
Generally, it can take 10 minutes for teams to even arrive at the scene, let alone for them to already have water flowing, he said.
It’s even more impressive when you consider the fire was in a rural area of town, where there is not easy access to a hydrant.
Part of what made the team’s response time so exceptional was the introduction of a new weekend dedicated-duty crew.
“Funnily enough, this is just the first weekend that (the duty crew) started,” said Plato.
“We employ a duty crew now because of the weekends being busier and just with a lot more tourism and traffic in the area. The duty crew are in place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.”
The home is owned by the Skubel family, who were away at the time.
Plato said the volunteers’ stellar response time prevented the fire from spreading into the attic.
“Typically, once a fire gets into an attic space it usually starts to run and that’s what takes houses down.”
All five fire stations responded to the call on Sunday. Having the duty crew get there so quickly meant the next arrivals could focus on other safety measures rather than getting water flowing, said Plato.
“To be able to contain this to the garage — the crews did a fantastic job. Everything went fairly smooth based on operating guidelines.”
Some neighbouring heroes also worked to make sure the fire didn’t get out of hand before the firefighters arrived.
“I was in my garage when I smelled something bad,” neighbour Bill Schulz recalled.
“My first instinct was to inform my neighbour that their house was on fire. I was worried if they were inside. Thankfully, no one was at home,” he said.
Schulz even got his garden hose going and started battling the blaze himself while he called the fire department.
“What mattered was the safety of the family but thankfully the family was not in the house and no one was hurt.”
A cause for the fire nor total damages have yet to be determined, Plato said.
With files from Richard Harley and Marlou Sotto Tiro.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report