SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Some customers of the U-Haul storage facility on King George and 84th Avenue are waiting to find out just how bad the damage is following a three-alarm blaze that destroyed at least 18 units late Friday afternoon.
— Danger On Air (@DangerOnAir) November 11, 2017
Thick smoke and large orange flames could be seen from far away as dozens of firefighters tackled the blaze when it broke out shortly before 5:30 p.m. Crews were able to gain the upper hand, but it flared up again early this morning, forcing crews to return to the scene.
“Fire crews left the scene just before 4 a.m. to replenish and reload the hose. And at approximately 6:20 a.m., RCMP, who secured and patrolled the site, called us back for a fire in one of the 18 units that was damaged — that had started to smoke and show flames again,” explains Surrey Fire Battalion Chief Kevin Beenahm, who points out they knocked it down quickly.
He adds the fire has been tricky to handle. “The polyesters in the clothing, the furniture, and mattresses… due to the high heat, basically melts and fuses together and turns into a giant glob. And what happens is the initial fire cools it down and it goes into a hard-shell and then once we step back to monitor it, every so often it will burn from the inside out and vent and that’s where we get the smoke and flames.”
Given the materials involved, Beenahm says there is always a risk to firefighters and the public, especially when the fire is so big. “Every fire we fight there are health concerns, of course, because anything that has a product of combustion is dangerous. Whether it’s a house fire or a structural fire, you never know what’s in the smoke.”
Beenahm says the Mounties will monitor the scene throughout the long weekend and it will likely take a while to determine a cause, if investigators do at all. “We can’t go in due to the structural integrity being compromised.”
Witnesses say they heard several explosions when the fire began. “We actually found fire extinguishers that people had stored in their units and because they’re pressurized containers — anything from hairspray to fix-a-flat-tire can are all popping and small propane tanks.”
He points out they were able to save a lot of items, including a Corvette, but much was lost. “We had one person come up… his parents had just passed away and they had stored most of their stuff from the estate, so he lost his baby pictures and stuff like that. We do feel for the people that have lost stuff.”
Beenahm says it’s up to U-Haul to reach out to customers.