WINNIPEG – “It was our dream home,” Agata Jekielek said through tears Tuesday afternoon, after scanning the property where their home once stood.
This house on Pipeline Road in West St. Paul was a labour of love for homeowners Kaz and Agata Jekielek. After buying the property in 2011, they were nearly finished construction when fire ripped through the home Monday, destroying the property.
“I don’t feel at all , I don’t have any feelings today,” Kaz Jekielek explained.
According to the fire commissioner, the residence suffered $700,000 in damage. The home, a total loss. The cause is believed to be a vehicle explosion in the garage and flames quickly spread through the roof, gutting the home.
Ryan Yackel, the chief of West St. Paul’s volunteer fire department, said when crews arrived at about 4:45 p.m. Monday, the home just outside Winnipeg city limits was already fully engulfed.
“It was unsafe and that’s why we maintained a defensive attack from the exterior of the building,” Yackel said.
Global’s Skyview-1 helicopter observed the fiery scene as it unfolded, and could see for several minutes the West St. Paul firefighters attempting to douse the huge blaze with a single hose. Tanker trucks were needed to maintain a water supply. It took about half an hour for a significant number of trucks and firefighters to assemble.
No help from nearby Winnipeg fire department
When West St. Paul’s fire crews realized they needed help, they turned to St. Andrews. That fire hall is 21 kilometres away, while Winnipeg’s fire hall number 7, is only about 8 kilometres away on the other side of the Perimeter Highway.
Still, Winnipeg wasn’t an option to help battle the blaze.
” We are very close but we are also very different. West St Paul doesn’t have hydrants at this point.”
Winnipeg fire and paramedic services can be used outside city limits but the cost is high and only certain communities have an agreement in place. West St. Paul isn’t one of them.
“We haven’t pursued Winnipeg as a mutual aid partner. We have good support from neighboring RM’s.”
Booming suburbs pose challenge for small rural fire departments
Subdivisions continue to expand just outside Winnipeg city limits. Large, two story homes are becoming the norm, which create an ever tougher scenario for rural fire fighters.
“It’s incredibly tough to access and control,” Yackel explained.
The West St. Paul firefighters at one point propped a ladder up against the front of the blazing Pipeline Road home Monday to try and spray water on the roof; West St. Paul has no aerial ladder truck that would have accomplished this more safely.
Neighbours and friends of the Jekiekel’s say this is a wake up call as to how long it takes for rural crews to reach a blaze.
“Considering the city is really close, closer than Stony Mountain and St.Andrews, you kinda wonder depending on the size of the emergency,” Jaclyn Omar told Global News.
Antonio Neves said this is what he believes happens in rural communities. ” When the fire starts you know your house is going to burn because the waiting time.”