Fire rips through Beaver Ridge mobile park destroying 2 homes, damaging 7 others
By Mark Clairmont / MuskokaTODAILY
GRAVENHURST — A fire that destroyed two trailers and damaged at least a half dozen more on all sides, left three people homeless on Monday afternoon in the lovely little 120-unit Sun Park Beaver Ridge mobile home community south of town.
Reg and Marie Bulloch and Rev. Kathleen Taylor lost their homes and all their belongings when a fast-moving inferno ripped through their small units and quickly spread toward neighbours.
The blaze, which began in the Bulloch’s bungalow in phase 2 of the subdivision, jumped up and out across the back fence to engulf Taylor’s home.
The three homeowners were away when the Gravenhurst Fire Department received the call at 2:41 p.m., Chief Larry Brassard told MuskokaTODAILY on Tuesday afternoon.
He said damage to the at least seven or eight trailers totalled upwards of $300,000.
And that’s before insurance adjusters had their look and the contents were accounted for.
The Bullochs, who had no insurance, were away and came home about 5 p.m. to find the park entrance and roads jammed and crawling with police, firefighters, neighbours, friends, emergency personnel and services company vehicles.
Taylor returned from a Florida vacation at 9 p.m. to find she had lost everything in the devastation.
She is the UnitedChurch minister for Washago and Artrea, and also the sister of Town of Gravenhurst community events co-ordinator and marketing assistant Amy Taylor.
Marie Bulloch is the familiar (short, grey-haired) face behind the counter at the Canadian Tire discount gas bar in downtown Gravenhurst. Her husband Reg is retired.
A day later, a quick community get-together was organized for Friday night at Beaver Ridge’s community centre, said park managers Vic and Debbie Wood, who lost their own home in the park’s last devastating fire in 2006, when again two trailers burned down in a fire in phase 1.
Brassard said no cause has been determined for Monday’s fire.
He said it was not suspicious and the Fire Marshal’s office wasn’t called in to further investigate.
But some neighbours suspect by what they witnessed that it may have been started from a wood-burning stove and chimney fire.
The chief said the fire was “fully involved” when firefighters were called immediately from stations one and two, and then station three.
Neighbours credited the fast work of the firefighters with saving the surrounding homes from further damage and or additional destruction.
Brassard said they had help, relying on their mutual aid fire agreements with neigbouring SevernTownship and Bracebridge. Those fire departments them to call into service two tanker trucks to haul water back and forth from a small pond on the back of the park property to fill portable swimming pools from which to draw water for their hoses because there are no fire hydrants servicing the Beaver Ridge housing property.
Brassard said the heat was “extremely intense” at its height.
He credited the neighbours for acting swiftly and decisively to avoid further damage.
Gary White, a prison worker at Fenbrook (and a former MuskokaLakes firefighter), lives next door to the Bullochs.
He was outside trimming a tree and was first to notice the smoke from their chimney.
“He hollered over” to call 911, said Les Rickard, who lives across the tiny street and was working outback of his trailer with his wife Bev.
Rickard and White ran over to Bulloch’s trailer before firefighters arrived and quickly unhooked and hauled away two 100-pound propane tanks, while neighbour Carol Blaine was one of the first to call 911.
Rickard said he was so nervous he was turning the bolt the wrong way and tightening it more before eventually releasing it.
“Imagine if they had gone off,” said Rickard.
The younger White hauled the tanks away a safe distance.
White’s own home received extensive damage to his facing wood siding, and fire got into his sub-roof.
Rickard said he could see smoke coming out of White’s venting stack.
Rickard then ran in back of his house and dug out his garden hose — which he had to hook up for the first time this season — to wet down his home.
He said the radiant heat from across the street was so hot he couldn’t stand to touch the side of his house, which suffered major melting of the plastic siding.
“It was very stressful,” said his wife, Bev, who was worried their home would go up next, because it is less than 40 feet across the way in the tiny, tight community.
Meanwhile, the flames from Bulloch’s chimney shot straight up into the air, drifted the few feet back westward toward Taylor’s trailer, dropping embers onto it and quickly engulfing the second home.
Taylor’s neighbours in front across the road, Don and Anne Bailey, said they could see the smoke and flames right away and watched nervously to make sure ill winds didn’t blow the flames their way.
Luckily it was a relatively pretty nice, sunny spring afternoon — though there were some shifting winds at times that caused concern as firefighters were on the scene till 8 p.m. ensuring every ember was out and no flames would spring up.
The Baileys and more than a dozen other homes still had no power 24 hours later. Phone service for many was also out Tuesday afternoon, but many had cellphone use.
Vic Woods said part of the problem was a power source for many of them was right in the midst of where the fire started, next to the Bullochs property.
Electrician Dave Camick was working Tuesday in the rain to restore power as fast as he could.
He and Woods expect to have the replacement repair parts couriered in to bring back hydro by Wednesday.
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