Volunteer firefighters put out a multiple structure fire over live powerlines in Grand Forks Saturday morning, March 13, according to first responders.
Grand Forks RCMP Cst. Eileen O’Mahony said the fire started in an RV behind a home on the 6800 block of 19th Street at around 7 a.m. Mounties believe the fire was caused by an electrical heater used to heat the vehicle’s sole occupant, a city man experiencing homelessness. The man left the vehicle unscathed and then notified the home owner, who called 911. No one was hurt in the fire, she said.
Fire Chief George Seigler said the flames lit up a utility pole next to the RV. The fire would have brought down live overhead wires had it not been for the quick actions of a city electrical crew which managed to cut the power. This allowed firefighters to safely knock down the inferno which had meanwhile engulfed a fifth-wheel trailer and two sheds on the property, he said.
Seigler said firefighters found full propane canisters inside the burning RV. “In a fire, those things are like live bombs waiting to go off,” he said. The canisters did not go off because they vented through built-in safety release valves.
Propane and gas tanks need to be stored in buildings outside residences, commercial buildings and garages, Seigler warned. Next, Seigler said bystanders’ parked cars hindered fire engines’ approach to the scene.
The public are asked to keep well away from first responders and their vehicles at the scene of any emergency, he said.
Mounties are not considering criminal charges against the RV’s occupant. The man had permission to stay on the homeowner’s property, Cst. O’Mahony said.
“He’s a good person, and he just lost his only home,” she said.