Early Saturday morning, Rose Valley Fire Chief Dale Whitford arrived at his fire hall to find heavy smoke billowing from the building.
The blaze, which occurred in the small town 250 kilometres east of Saskatoon, claimed most of the department’s fire fighting equipment and heavily damaged their two fire trucks.
But less than 12 hours later, Whitford was overcome with gratitude as he described the response from other departments across western Canada.
“It has been absolutely incredible what’s gone on this afternoon,” he said. “My wife has pretty much been secretary all day with fire departments from all over Saskatchewan, some out of Manitoba, some out of Alberta, offering up equipment. Basically whatever we need, they’ll find a way to get it out to us here.”
Whitford suspects the fire originated from a quad used to fight grass fires that was plugged into a battery charger. Luckily, neighbouring fire crews from Wadena and Kelvington arrived on scene right before the building was fully engulfed.
“The fire trucks are in really bad shape. Our helmets are basically a third to a half melted. A complete fire suit right now is probably going to run you $5,000 for sure, and we had 17 suits in that building,” he said, declining to offer a dollar estimate of how much damage was caused.
The overwhelming response began when Whitford started calling his provincial colleagues to tell them the news. Facebook posts, which included Whitford’s home and cell phone numbers, called for other fire departments to lend supplies and equipment as their Rose Valley colleagues got back on their feet.
“To all the fire departments out there that have contacted me and given their best wishes and offers of support for absolutely everything, thank you will never be enough. It’s unreal,” Whitford said.
Equipment donations are not yet being accepted, since there is no place to put them. Whitford said they’ll have a better sense of what was lost when the insurance company arrives on Monday.
The Rose Valley department will respond to calls during the rebuild, but will mostly assist crews from Kelvington and Wadena.