Medium view of fire at 115 Kingsway Road, 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta on 10 June, 2021.
Photo: Aviator Avery Philpott
On the afternoon of June 9 2021, 4 Wing welcomed United States personnel from the Maine Air National Guard and Dyess Airforce Base attending EXERCISE AMALGAM DART 21-1. US personnel were housed in the accommodations trailers and quickly racked out after a long day of flying, layovers, and unloading gear. At roughly 0200hrs the next morning the 4 Wing Fire Hall dispatchers received a call stating there was smoke and fire at building 511, one of the trailers housing 16 US personnel, at which time the duty crew responded immediately. Upon arriving on scene, the crew identified that the fire had already engulfed the roof of the building and interior firefighting became impossible due to collapsing debris. The quick reactions of two American firefighters from 7th Civil Engineering Squadron, who happened to be housed in the accommodations trailer, ensured that all personnel were able to exit the trailer safely, most with just the clothes on their back.
The Fire Hall initiated a recall in order to augment the duty crew with off duty Fire fighters and activate all 6 of the Wing’s firefighting vehicles, all available resources were put to bare on the blaze which threatened to spread to nearby accommodations. It took over 8 hours of constant firefighting efforts from over 25 personnel including assistance from heavy equipment operators to get the fire under control and begin tearing down walls to extinguish hot spots. Flare ups and smoke continued to occur for most of Thursday afternoon but luckily a heavy rain began to fall and the site was finally secured.
The following day a thorough fire investigation was completed and pointed to a ventilation fan as the likely ignition source. Due to the efforts of firefighting crews in the early hours of Thursday morning many personal effects and crucial equipment the Americans had brought with them were able to be recovered from the wreckage including passports, wallets, and Pelican cases full of gear.
This fire is a sobering reminder of how quickly a small electrical issue can turn into a fully engulfed structure fire and the importance of having a robust fire inspection program, training, and response capabilities on 4 Wing. As 4 Wing Fire Chief I recommend that everyone reviews their own family’s plan to get out in case of an emergency and checks the smoke detectors in their homes.