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Truck billows flames and smoke
Only road on and off of Fort Simpson island briefly closed

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, February 20, 2014

A vehicle fire blocked the only road access to the island portion of Fort Simpson shortly before the evening rush hour on Feb. 12.

nnsl photo

A Kenworth truck that caught on fire blocked the only road link between the on and off island portions of Fort Simpson for approximately an hour on Feb. 12. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

A Kenworth truck with Alberta plates carrying a compressor sent a column of black smoke rising into the air as it burned. The truck stopped just off of the causeway on the island side.

The Fort Simpson Volunteer Fire Department received the call about the fire at approximately 3:45 p.m. and responded with eight firefighters and two fire trucks, said Scott Whitmore, a lieutenant with the department.

The engine compartment and the cab were already fully engulfed when the department arrived and the roof of the cab had collapsed, he said. The driver of the truck was able to exit the vehicle and was on the far side of the fire closer to the causeway.

As a safety measure the department had to first identify what the truck was carrying.

"The initial call identified the truck as a fuel truck," Whitmore said.

One of the department's members, Stephanie Cudmore, who is also the village's bylaw enforcement officer, happened to be on the far side of the fire along with the driver.

"Through radio contact we were able to establish what the cargo was and the contents of the truck including the fuel level," he said.

The fire department was then able to move the fire trucks closer and deploy hoses. Because of the potential for the fuel in the truck's tank to be part of the fire the department used a combination of water and foam, which works more effectively on fuel fires, Whitmore said.

The initial attack brought the fire down quite a bit and then firefighters were able to open the truck's hood and extinguish the hot spots, he said. Vehicles were allowed past the scene, one direction at a time, by 4:45 p.m.

"Everyone was very patient," said Whitmore.

The drivers went past cautiously allowing the department to put away its equipment, he said. While the fire was still burning many people drove to that end of the island to see what was happening.

The vehicle's tires didn't melt and the truck, with the cab and engine fully destroyed, was pulled off of the road to the vehicle pull off beside the village office by about 5:15 p.m.

Although the fire appeared to start in the engine compartment, Whitmore said he wasn't aware of any clear indication of what started the blaze. The NWT Office of the Fire Marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.

Fort Simpson Mayor Sean Whelly, who watched part of the fire from the side of the road, said the village doesn't have any specific plans in place to deal with the possibility of the causeway, which is the only road linking the on and off island portions of the village, being blocked for an extended period besides waiting it out.

"It's a good situation to start thinking about," he said.

In the case of a fire the hope is it will be put out fairly quickly so the road can be reopened. This fire could serve as a reason to start thinking about it, he said.

In this case if the causeway had of been closed for much longer, Whelly said he suspects people would have walked around the blockage and caught rides on either side.

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