Mutual aid fights fire
South-West Oxford, Tillsonburg, Norfolk fire departments cooperate for kiln fire
A large column of black smoke west of Tillsonburg brought out multiple fire departments Wednesday morning last week.
Tillsonburg Fire and Rescue Services responded to 911 calls reporting a large fire on the west side of town around 10:30 a.m. in the vicinity of North Street and Quarter Town Line. The first pumper to arrive discovered the fire on Brownsville Road, 1.2 km west of North Street in the Township of South-West Oxford.
“The initial call we got put the fire at the Broadway and Devonshire area,” said Tillsonburg Fire Chief Jeff Smith. “But our crews saw that it was further west and realized it was in the Township of SouthWest Oxford.”
South-West Oxford Fire and Emergency Services was quickly notified and two SWOX stations responded - Brownville and Mount Elgin.
“Basically a property owner was burning down an old kiln, and it was outside of the rules of open air burning... outside the burn permit process,” said Jeff VanRybroeck, Fire Chief of South-West Oxford. “It was a purpose- set fire, but there were shingles on the old kiln. Basically, not allowed.”
Multiple old stick kilns were lit at the same time, he said.
“We extinguished the fire because it was outside the rules of open air burning. Because of the shingles on the buildings, it’s an environmental issue. Within the rules of open air burning, you can’t burn any petroleum products. Shingles are a petroleum-based product, so that’s why you get that thick black, heavy smoke.
“Those old kilns have shingles on the walls, basically sheets of shingle wrap, and then the roofs are shingled. Basically it became an environmental issue, that’s why we extinguished it.”
One building, fairly close to one of the kilns, was sprayed as a preventative measure.
“There was no real risk of it catching fire, but it did heat up a little bit so we did put some water on.”
Water shuttles were set up on North Street and Quarter Town Line to help refill tankers, and smoke was visible across town.
“I heard you could see it as far away as Delhi,” said VanRybroeck. “Initially Tillsonburg was the first response because the caller thought the fire was in the Tillsonburg area around the soccer park. With that thick, heavy black smoke, it stays low, so it’s pretty tough to give a pinpoint location.
“Once Tillsonburg ( Fire & Rescue Services) found the location, they notified our dispatch centre, and our protocol is that for any structure fire we send two stations, so Brownsville and Mount Elgin were paged out at the same time.
“We have a mutual aid agreement within the neighboring departments. If Tillsonburg gets called, they’re going to start working it until we get on scene, and then today we needed everybody there so we kept them for quite a while. And we would do the same thing in Tillsonburg, if let’s say there was a call at the north end near Sobeys - we would go if they paged us accidentally... until Tillsonburg arrived, then they would take over and guide us that way.”
Firefighters from one of Norfolk’s stations (Delhi) reported to the Tillsonburg Fire Hall to be on call while Tillsonburg Fire and Rescue Services was assisting SWOX.
“It’s being good neighbours and it keeps everybody safe,” said VanRybroeck.
Oxford County Paramedic Services and Oxford OPP attended in a supportive roll, and there were no injuries reported.
“One problem we did have is people going around the ‘ road closed’ signs,” said Smith, “and interfering with the fire department operations. We heard everything - ‘well I live down there,’ or ‘I live on the other side of the fire and I need to get home.’ We did have quite a few problems with traffic at this incident.”
The area was cleared around 3 p. m. and Brownsville Road re-opened.
“At this time, the incident is under investigation,” said VanRybroeck.
A large column of black smoke west of Tillsonburg, where a property owner was burning old kilns, could be seen as far away as Otterville and Delhi to the east.
Firefighters from Tillsonburg assisted South-West Oxford Fire and Emergency Services Wednesday last week at a mutual aid call to Brownsville Road, about 1.2 km west of North Street.