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Business destroyed

One Westlock business was gutted, while two others were damaged following a Wednesday night fire.
Firefighters work to contain the blaze that destroyed Vision Cabinets last Wednesday night. Crews were on scene until early Thursday morning putting out hot spots.
Firefighters work to contain the blaze that destroyed Vision Cabinets last Wednesday night. Crews were on scene until early Thursday morning putting out hot spots.

One Westlock business was gutted, while two others were damaged following a Wednesday night fire.

The investigation is still underway to determine the cause of the blaze, which destroyed Vision Cabinets and damaged Open Season and Water and Pure Simple. All three are located at 96 Ave. and 100 St. in Westlock’s west end.

“A witness had spotted smoke coming from the building at approximately 9 p.m. and called the fire department,” said Westlock RCMP Staff Sgt. Bryan Clayton.

Vision Cabinets suffered the brunt of the damage said Westlock Fire Department chief Stuart Koflick. An estimate of the damages is expected this week.

While en route to the scene, Westlock County departments were called to provide back up since it was a working structure fire, said Koflick.

“Upon arrival, we found Vision Cabinets fully involved,” he said, noting the cause of the fire doesn’t appear to be suspicious. “Teams established a water supply, deployed tack teams to the front and rear of the building and also set up a ladder truck for roof access as well as a master fire stream.”

He said within minutes of the first team entering the front of the building to perform an interior attack, the operation had to switch from offensive to defensive and shortly after making this change, the roof of Vision Cabinets collapsed.

“The fire department was able to contain the fire to the Vision Cabinets occupancy, however, the Vision Cabinets occupancy is a total loss,” he said.

Open Season suffered water and smoke damage, while Water Pure and Simple received moderate smoke damage, said Koflick. Stock was salvaged from both businesses, as firefighters were able to perform overhaul operations to assist with recovery.

In total, roughly 30 firefighters were called in to fight the blaze, as were two pumper trucks, a single ladder truck, four rescue support vehicles and a command vehicle.

The fire took roughly nine hours to fight, with county crews departing the scene at 3 a.m. and town crews remaining on scene until roughly 6 a.m. to battle hot spots.

Response time was delayed due to a train crossing Highway 18 at the time of the fire, which affected the arrival of the first two vehicles.

“It wasn’t a really long time, but you know, when an emergency happens, one minute could seem like 10,” Koflick said.

“We had a captain on scene in the initial part of the incident due to the fact that he lives on the west side of town, so he was able to come and assess the scene and relay the information to the units.”

One firefighter from the town department was sent to hospital for observation stemming from heat and stress-related injuries like exhaustion, but is doing fine, Koflick said.

“It’s a matter of standard operating procedure,” he said, adding that an ambulance is on standby for all working fires to provide regular evaluation of firefighters on scene.

“EMS takes a set of vitals, makes sure that there’s nothing, in their minds, going to exclude (the firefighters) from continuing on any activity. They get some heat, get some water, re-hydrate themselves and back into the mix if all’s OK,” he said.

No other injuries were reported.

The Alberta Emergency Management Agency gave Westlock Fire Department and Westlock County Fire Services a job-well-done pat on the back, according to Koflick, saying that they did an excellent job with respect to containing the fire in one area and preventing it from spreading to adjacent businesses.

“I’m very pleased with the way our department, as well as the county department, operated at this fire. When you actually look at the building and look at the property saved versus the property lost, I’m immensely proud,” Koflick said.