Police officers from the RCMP’s major crimes unit out of Edmonton are investigating at a rural property in western Alberta, where a deadly fire broke out shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Drones were seen flying over the heavily treed property and someone from the medical examiner’s office was at the property north of the hamlet of Buck Lake on Thursday, where neighbours described what happened to Global News.
“Yesterday, there was all kinds of activity across the road south of us,” said Pat Hauser, who lives in the 65-lot Hauser’s Cove subdivision on the northwestern shore of Buck Lake in the County of Wetaskiwin.
“A big blast and then lots of activity with police, ambulance and fire, of course. And it’s unfortunate but the house in that property burnt down,” Hauser said.
“I saw the huge plume of smoke and… it was bad.”
Police said the home was engulfed in flames when emergency crews arrived.
Both RCMP and the county have been asked about what happened, but a response had not been provided other than to confirm it was a fatal fire.
“Two bodies have been removed from the property,” said RCMP Cpl. Mike Hibbs, who was unable to provide ages or genders.
Global News received several calls from people who said two children were killed.
“I did see the other ones in the ditch outside on the roadway, teenagers and maybe an adult or two,” Hauser said.
“But to think that it wasn’t possible to grab the little ones, it’s awful.”
Hauser said she is saddened, but not surprised — explaining this is the third explosion and fire in the last month at the property on Township Road 465 near Range Road 63.
“The first one was a shed or a shack. And it was similar: there was a blast, but it was a smaller building, so not as bad,” she said, adding fire, ambulances and police responded.
“And then, it was probably a week later, I think, that the second shelter or building went and the same thing with the big blast — nothing like the house — but, you know, the police have been watching there for a good year, longer.”
Hauser claimed the property was known to police — in fact, just half an hour before the fire broke out, she said an officer approached to ask about using her yard to set up surveillance on the home where the fire happened.
However on Friday, RCMP Cpl. Deanna Fontaine told Global News police were in the area on an unrelated matter and it had nothing to do with the property where the fire began.
Rob Gangl also lives nearby and said he only talked to the people who lived at the property once or twice in the past decade — regardless, the idea of someone dying bothers him.
“It’s a horrific thing, however you look at it.”
The cause of the fire is not yet known and the RCMP major crime unit is leading the investigation. Hibbs said autopsies will happen in the coming days.
Buck Lake is located about 130 kilometres southwest of Edmonton in the Drayton Valley region.