$50K Chase the Ace jackpot won in tiny town's bid to replace ancient fire truck

The town of Little Bay has made one lucky winner — and its volunteer fire department — thousands of dollars richer with the popular rising-jackpot game Chase the Ace.

The outport, home to about 100 people, hosted swelling crowds throughout the summer as the elusive ace avoided capture week after week.

As locals and visitors alike — nearly 1,100 of them —  trickled in for the 9 p.m. draw, the fire department remained flabbergasted at the draw's popularity.

The pile of cash up for grabs had climbed to almost $50,000 by the time the ace was selected Thursday night.

Little Bay, about 20 kilometres from Springdale, needs a new truck. But until the draw's jackpot ballooned, the town didn't know where they'd find the money.

Bruce Tilley/CBC

"We never dreamed it would go this far," said fire chief Steve Walker. "It was a lot of work, but well worth it in the end."

The money raised for the department will help replace Little Bay's rickety 1983 Chevrolet pickup, which wasn't deemed reliable or safe enough to transport volunteers to calls. It was recently retired.

"It was dangerous. You never knew what was going to happen," Walker said.

Winner wants Skidoo

Jamie Oxford of Springdale pulled the ace from the dwindling deck of remaining cards — a hearty reward after attending every draw for about the past two months.

"I don't know what to think. Can't believe it," he said, noting that he'd never won anything in his life.

Steve Walker

Oxford didn't know exactly how he'd spend his spoils, except on a new Skidoo.

"I've got to buy a Skidoo first. Skidoo is coming first," he said.

Walker said Oxford was a fitting winner.

"He was one of the guys that actually helped volunteer when we first started the new garage," he said, referring to construction of a new fire station. 

"He was here was help with the cement. So he well deserved it."

Town without truck

After Little Bay retired its rusty truck, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro donated a pickup, which the town is using for now.

However, it's not a long-term solution.

Bruce Tilley/CBC

After hearing about other communities fundraising through the game, Walker said the town started its own — never dreaming, he added, that the weekly draws would summon hundreds of hopefuls.

"When you're lucky enough to hold onto the ace ... the word gets around," Walker said.

The bulk of visitors came from nearby Springdale, as well as towns on the Baie Verte Peninsula. One man even drove in each week from St John's.

"He's after being here about four times now. He stays overnight," said Walker.

Katie Breen/CBC

The cash will fund replacement equipment for its 25 volunteers, but until the department gets funding approval from the provincial government, like Oxford, they've yet to decide how to spend it.

A new pumper truck, Walker said, fetches $500,000, an amount far exceeding the department's budget. But new suits, boots and helmets are also needed. 

"We're just a small fire department with all older equipment," he said.

"It's a fantastic fundraiser."

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