The community of Enderby, B.C., is grieving after a volunteer firefighter was killed and another was injured by a fire and an explosion that tore through a log home construction business in the north Okanagan region.
The family of the dead firefighter has confirmed his identity as Dan Botkin, 25. He had just returned to the community after working in Alberta and was married just two months ago, according to his family.
The fire broke out about 4 a.m. PT Thursday at Sperlich Log Construction, in Enderby, about 35 kilometres north of Vernon.
Within an hour, about two dozen volunteer firefighters from the community thought they had the blaze under control. But then an explosion ripped through a smaller shed attached to the main building, killing one firefighter and injuring another.
Botkin's grandfather Dennis, who lived next door to the site, said he was awoken by an explosion early Thursday morning. He then spotted his grandson taking a rest after fighting the flames.
"And I talked to him and asked him how he was and he said he was very exhausted. But he said,'I have got to get back at it,' and put his hat on and away he went," said Dennis.
Minutes later Dennis said he and his wife Betty heard a loud explosion followed by screams.
"It just shook the whole house, shook the tools in my shop. I said to Betty, 'I hear someone screaming.' Little did I know it was my grandson."
Dennis said he learned his grandson was killed by the second explosion when the police came to lock up his truck which was parked out front of Dennis's home.
Death rocks community
One large building was destroyed by the fire and was still smouldering at noon. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
RCMP spokesman Gord Molendyk said the news of the death will hit the small community hard.
"It will rock the whole community. First of all Enderby is a small, tight-knit community. When you lose an individual who is volunteering his time for the community it will rock that community," he said.
Enderby Mayor Howie Cyr said many in the community woke up to the news.
"It just strikes everybody hard. This is a small close-knit community. The firefighters are very well known and highly respected. They do an outstanding job here. Some of them have been on the fire department for decades. People are going to wake up today to this news and it's just an awful thing."
The injured firefighter was treated at the scene and is recovering in hospital at Salmon Arm.
Premier Christy Clark said it was "a heartbreaking day" for the family, for the community, and for all firefighters.
"Firefighters set an incredible standard of heroism. They run toward dangers when the rest of us flee. And they respond to each call knowing they may risk their lives in order to save others," she said.
Solicitor General Bond Shirley Bond extended condolences to Botkin's family on behalf of the province.
"We also express our deepest gratitude to firefighters across B.C. for their bravery and commitment to keeping our communities safe."
"To volunteer for this duty, as Mr. Botkin did and hundreds of other volunteer firefighters do on a daily basis, epitomizes selfless devotion to the safety of their neighbours and communities," said Bond.
Volunteer firefighting a huge commitment
According to Len Garris, head of the Fire Chiefs' Association of B.C., there are as many as 10,000 volunteer firefighters in the province, mostly in small communities.
Volunteer firefighting is a huge commitment. Even though they aren't paid, the men and women are required to have the same training as every firefighter in the province.
"Most volunteer fire departments train weekly, which is a weekly evening commitment, and on weekends, which is specialized training for the job that they do and it is an incredibly big commitment towards that," said Garris.
Changes to training for volunteer departments came after the death of a young firefighter in Clearwater in 2004. The 23-year-old entered a burning restaurant and was killed when the floor collapsed.
The new regulations require all volunteer departments to meet a checklist of key health and safety requirements.