Three structure fires over the course of a 12-hour period in the St. John’s metro area caused extensive damage and resulted in the hospitalization of three firefighters. One of those fires has now been deemed suspicious by police.
In two Sunday night news releases, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary asked the public to come forward with information regarding a fire on Beaumont Street early Saturday morning and a fire on Goodridge Street Saturday evening.
Three St. John’s Regional Fire Department (SJRFD) firefighters were hospitalized Saturday night due to heat exhaustion while battling a major fire on Goodridge Street in the centre of St. John’s. It was the second of three fires that started between late Saturday afternoon and early Sunday morning.
Deputy Fire Chief of Operations Don Byrne confirmed Sunday all three firefighters were released from hospital. Two were released Saturday night, while the third firefighter stayed overnight and was released late Sunday morning.
“But all have been checked out and deemed OK,” said Byrne. The firefighters received intravenous liquids at the hospital.
The house fires on Beaumont Street and Goodridge Street were among four notable structure fires SJRFD responded to over the weekend.
The fire at 12 Goodridge St. — an abandoned home that was also the victim of a fire on Christmas Eve in 2010 — was the most serious of the three. Crews were on the scene a couple of minutes after the fire was first reported shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday.
They remained there for several hours before the last firefighters and first on-scene crews to respond from the Central Fire Station returned to their station just past midnight on Sunday.
The abandoned house was destroyed.
“On arrival, they were met with heavy smoke here and fire on the lower west side of the home and the basement was fully involved,” Byrne told reporters at the scene.
An aerial bucket was used extensively to battle the fire.
“We pulled our guys outside the house because it wasn’t safe and we have our aerial device setup there and we’re just going to contain it by using that,” Byrne said.
Fresh crews from two fire stations were called in to assist the first 15 firefighters sent to handle the three-alarm fire. Byrne indicated the heat was taking its toll on them.
“Eastern Health paramedics checked out a number of firefighters for their vitals and to make sure they are all OK and we got a couple of guys a bit on the stomach sick side, a little overcome from the heat and exhaustion.”
The media scrum took place just after 7 p.m. As smoke and fire continued, Deputy Chief Byrne said the fire was under control at that point and the firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to the nearby homes.
But as the night wore on and darkness set in, crews were still pouring water down into the structure as flames lit up Goodridge Street, protruding from the roof and sides and front of the home near the eaves.
Two firefighters in the aerial bucket poured water down into the flames.
Once the fire was significantly knocked down, a chainsaw was used to cut away additional sections of the front of the home. This allowed firefighters to give the roof and the home’s interior a good soaking. Fire crews had the upper hand by approximately 11 p.m., with the all-out call confirmed minutes later.
Just over an hour before calls came in about Goodridge Street, crews from the Mount Pearl, Brookfield and Central fire stations were dispatched to 22 Third St. in Mount Pearl. Several 911 calls were received concerning smoke at the residence.
According to Acting Shift-Supt. Rick Mackey, firefighters quickly managed to extinguish the fire, knocking it down in a matter of minutes.
“The fire was confined to the basement area and as well it extended to the exterior of the building where the heavy body of the fire was,” said Mackey.
Mackey added there were five trucks on the scene and 16 firefighters who battled the blaze.
Heat from the fire melted the exterior siding of the adjacent home at 20 Third St. Firefighters used axes and pike poles to haul the siding off that home. To ensure fire didn’t get inside the home, infrared heat detection cameras were used to check the walls.
Firefighters removed two cages containing birds from the home. They were believed to be parakeets and were handed over to their owner by firefighter John Coady when the resident arrived home to her basement apartment residence.
The third fire happened on Empire Avenue early Sunday morning. According to Byrne, the fire started in a basement apartment.
“There was extensive damage to the basement apartment and a lot of smoke and heat damage to the main floor area of the house.”
There were no injuries. Those who were inside the basement apartment had already left the house when fire crews arrived on the scene about 4:30 a.m.
No one was home on the main floor when the fire started.
Royal Newfoundland Constabulary fire investigators are looking into the cause of all four fires.
This story has been edited from an earlier version to correct some details.