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911 call futile as flames destroy carpet business
Man drives to fire hall to report Fitzgerald Carpeting blaze after being unable to contact firefighters

John McFadden
Northern News Services
Wednesday, April 27, 2016

A man called 9-1-1 in vain Sunday night after he was unable to put out a fire at a Frame Lake South area business with a fire extinguisher which eventually destroyed the building.

NNSL photo/graphic

Flames fully engulf the Fitzgerald Carpeting building at 304 Woolgar Avenue late Sunday night. No one was injured but it took firefighters about 13 hours to finally douse the stubborn blaze. - Shane Magee/NNSL photo

NNSL photo/graphic

This was all that was left of Fitzgerald Carpeting Monday afternoon after the building was destroyed by fire. There was still smoke coming from the rubble as a backhoe was used to tear down what was left of the structure. - John McFadden/NNSL photo

That is according to a news release from the City of Yellowknife. The release states the man drove to the fire hall - approximately one kilometre - to report what ended up being a huge fire at Fitzgerald Carpeting at 304 Woolgar Ave.

It's not believed that man or anyone else was hurt after flames broke out at about 10 p.m. There is no 9-1-1 emergency phone service in Yellowknife or anywhere else in the NWT. Residents are expected to dial any three-digit local prefix followed by 1111 for police and 2222 for the fire department in case of emergency.

"An individual had attempted to use a fire extinguisher to contain the flames at the back of the building but was unsuccessful," states the release. "After dialing 9-1-1 in error the individual drove to the fire hall to advise the YKFD duty-crew in person."

The fire spewed black acrid smoke into the air and over nearby apartments and homes as it consumed flammable materials

inside the building.

The city stated that 29 fire department personnel in total responded. Municipal enforcement and RCMP officers blocked off Woolgar Avenue to traffic. Drivers were still unable to access that part of Woolgar until late Monday afternoon. Northland Utilities was called in to disconnect power to the building, according to the city.

"An excavator was required (Monday) morning to prevent an unmonitored collapse of the building and to gain access to any hot-spots," the city stated. "By noon on Monday, a smaller fire crew was left on scene with an aerial water tower and a hose-line to continue extinguishing any areas as the excavator continued to remove portions of the building."

NWT Fire Marshal Chucker Dewar said crews from his office are looking for the cause but he said the fire does not appear to be suspicious.

"The fire was pretty advanced when the fire department arrived. It was already through the roof. Some of the contents could have contributed to that - textiles, adhesives, glues and lots of other combustibles," Dewar said. "They had all that stuff in stock and on the shelves. Firefighters immediately took a defensive posture meaning they're not going inside - they're protecting the neighbouring properties. It didn't damage the buildings on either side to my knowledge."

Dewar said he was not aware of anything exploding inside although Yellowknifer spoke to at least one person who was at the scene and said they heard multiple explosions.

The Fitzgerald Carpeting website states it has been in business for more than 35 years and that it carries a selection of carpet

and vinyl flooring.

Brittany Koslowski, receptionist for the Yellowknife Veterinary Clinic next door, confirmed that veterinarian Dr. Michael Hughes did live in the apartment above the carpet business. She said he was home when the fire broke out and was able to escape unharmed. It is unclear whether he is the person who initially tried to extinguish the blaze on his own. She added they had two dogs in the clinic at the time but both are fine. She said the vet was allowed back inside the clinic at about 4 a.m. to check on the welfare of the animals.

Hughes did not return calls for comments as of press time.

Bob Brooks lives nearby on Byrne Road and said he heard the sirens, went outside and eventually realized the fire was only two doors away from his home.

"We could see the smoke at that time coming out of the windows but mostly at the back of the building," Brooks said. "Within five minutes flames were visible and that's when I started to take some pictures. A little later, once we had fire trucks and ambulances and hazmat crews then you could actually see flames at the back end."

Brooks said he and his and wife watched the scene unfold while standing in their housecoats on the front lawn.

"Our major concern was the building next door because it's right across the street from us. From what we could see in the evening or even in the morning - it didn't look like that building was in danger," Brooks said. "We did witness firefighters hosing down the other building and hosing down the big propane tank that was sitting right there. It was only a couple of metres away from the burning building as well."

Brooks said he and his wife eventually made their way back inside the home but did not have the best night's sleep.

"There was such a huge roar even inside our house with the windows closed you could hear this constant roar of flames. It was non-stop. You could hear a roaring fire," he said.

Brooks said he was surprised that he did not hear any explosions considering the paint, glue and other flammable materials that were inside the building.

Dewar said that he was not aware of any air monitoring taking place on Sunday night or Monday but added that he was telling residents to keep their doors and windows closed and for people to avoid the area while the smoke was still lingering.

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