Samaritan saves house
Quick-thinking pilot, firefighters avert disaster

by P.J. Harston
Northern News Services

NNSL (Aug 20/97) - Residents of 53rd Street near Franklin Avenue credit a Samaritan and a quick response by firefighters for averting disaster, Sunday.

Bruce Gordon was driving by 5004-53rd Street that evening when he saw smoke coming out of a backyard shed.

"I burned a (U-turn) on Franklin when I saw the smoke," said Gordon, an Air Tindi pilot in his early 40s. "I could see that if water wasn't sprayed on the trees and the old building next to the shed, the whole thing could go up," he said.

Neighbors were quick call Gordon a good Samaritan.

"I kept hearing this funny sound in my house. When I looked out the window, I saw this guy in my yard using my garden hose on the fire," said John McCullum, who lives next door to where the blaze occurred.

Ben McDonald, who lives two houses down, said Gordon did more than just slow down the 6:10 p.m. fire.

"That old building on the corner used to be a paint-storage shed. If that'd gone up we would have seen some real fireworks," he said.

Gordon said he's never done anything like this before, but doesn't consider himself a hero.

"I have a bit of training from the line of work I'm in," he said. "I was standing upwind, so I wasn't in danger at any point."

Yellowknife's fire department was on the scene just minutes after Gordon began hosing down the area. Firefighters, some wearing air tanks, attacked the blaze with hoses and axes, bringing it quickly under control.

Smoke from the fire could be seen for several blocks in all directions and a fallen, live power-line posed some danger as the curious began gathering near the scene. RCMP members and bylaw constables were called in to help control the burgeoning crowd of onlookers, many equipped with cameras and camcorders.

Among the dozens of onlookers was Andy Cadieux, 14. He said he saw some younger kids playing with fire crackers just before the blaze broke out.

"I was here and I saw some kids playing with cherry bombs right at the shed. All of the sudden smoke and flames and stuff started happening and it got really crazy," he said.

"I don't know the kids' names but one of them lives near here and he's about 10 or 11, in Grade 7."

Barber Brian Pearce also saw the fire when it first broke out as he was driving along Franklin Avenue with his infant daughter Brittany.

He agreed it started in the shed and spread from there to a nearby dumpster, into nearby trees and then to the back of the house itself.

Firefighters battled the blaze for about 30 minutes before the flames and smoke subsided.

Neighbors said the house was a rental unit and had been empty for the last month.

Deputy fire chief Mike Lowing said Monday that RCMP were investigating the cause of the blaze, which is now classified as "suspicious."

He said the building, owned by Roy Decorby, suffered between $1,000 and $3,000 damage. The backyard shed was destroyed, as was a nearby fence.