Homeless in Vancouver: Much ado about a little fire at Willow and West 26th

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      Just after lunchtime on Wednesday (July 17th), I found the way north on Willow Street blocked at West 26th Avenue by two firetrucks jack-knifed across the intersection.

      The emergency lights of the big red, white and chrome trucks were flashing in silence and two emergency personnel could be seen standing in the intersection.

      All the activity there was to speak of, though, was out of sight.

      So where’s the fire guys?

      At least 20 firefighters standing in the yard of a Tudor-style house that—at the very least—was being renovated and landscaped.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      Behind and to the east of the impromptu roadblock, a squad of at least 20 firefighters could be seen milling about in the yard of a two-storey, Tudor-style house on the south side of the 700 block of West 26th Avenue.

      The only pumper truck of the five fire engines in evidence that was physically engaged in firefighting.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      The large fire and rescue crew was supported by a pumper truck drawing water from a fire hydrant located hundreds of metres away on the northwest corner of the intersection of Willow and West 26th.

      Water sluggishly pooled on the road around the fat, orange hose connecting the hydrant to the pumper truck.

      Foreground is the nose of one of two fire engines used to block the intersection. In the middle distance is the third engine used to pump water. And in the background, on the left, is the cab of a fourth fire engine.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      However, whatever emergency Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services had been responding to was already ending as I was beginning to take photos.

      As I unmounted my bike, firefighters were filing out of the yard—many of them sloshed in their rubber boots through the water running along the curb on the south side of the 700 block of West 26th.

      I asked the firefighters in general if they had been conducting a training exercise or fighting an actual fire.

      Kitty corner from the engine used to pump the water was the fire hydrant the water was pumped from and behind the hydrant—an idle fifth fire engine.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      It was an actual fire, one of them told me—but “just a little one”. And there were no injuries, another confirmed.

      Beyond the firefighters and firefighting apparatus, there were no other outward signs any fire had occurred—not the odour of wood smoke, or charring to any visible part of the house.

      The first two of the five fire engines I encountered, being used to block the intersection at 2:26 p.m.
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      If I make so much ado about nothing much happening it is because this is literally the first time in over a decade that I have physically encountered Vancouver firefighters responding to anything other than a false alarm.

      And the fact is, the response I saw on Wednesday looked huge.

      Vancouver Fire and Rescue was represented by no fewer than five fire engines, one “Fire Medic” truck and something over 20 firefighters. And the B.C. Ambulance Service had one white, sleek station wagon at the scene, along with an uncounted number of personnel.

      Imagine if it hadn’t been a small fire. 

      Stanley Q. Woodvine is a homeless resident of Vancouver who has worked in the past as an illustrator, graphic designer, and writer. Follow Stanley on Twitter at @sqwabb.

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