Father Frank Salmon is crediting the quick response and training of the local fire department with saving his church.
A fire destroyed a shed on the Our Lady of the Snow Catholic Church on the Nak’azdli Reserve in Fort St. James, but was close to taking the church and rectory as well.
Salmon’s rectory, which is on the back of the church, also has an attached wood shed which had just caught fire when the firefighters arrived on the scene.
The storage shed next to the main church and rectory building was completely engulfed when the firefighters arrived and the shed and its contents were completely destroyed in the fire.
“The quick response of the fire department saved the church for sure,” said Salmon. Had they been five minutes later, Salmon thinks the wood shed would have been too far gone to stop it from destroying the rest of the structure.
While the rectory was damaged with some melted siding visible from the outside and possible smoke damage, Assistant Fire Chief Don Fraser said it looked like the structure itself of the rectory and church were not seriously fire-damaged.
Two fire engines and one water tender were on site to fight the fire, one working primarily on the destroyed shed and one on the grass fire which had burnt the hillside below the church.
Salmon said the shed was used to store a number of items both belonging to himself and to the church, including his kayaks, camping gear, canoe and the church’s ride-on lawnmower.
He is hopeful insurance will cover some of the losses.
While the cause of the fire is still under investigation properties below the church had been burning grass.
RCMP are reminding residents to take precautions with fires – do not leave them unattended and make sure to have water and equipment on site to deal with a fire should it begin to get out of control. Failure to take proper precautions could result in charges.