Devastating Lodge Bay fire reveals brigade equipment in shambles

Almost every piece of equipment in the fire hall failed as three buildings burned last week.

Almost every piece of equipment in the fire hall failed as three buildings burned last week

Keith Rumbolt, wearing overalls and a blue shirt, stands among firefighters and watches the flames overtake his workshop. (Submitted)

It's impossible to say for sure, but Keith Rumbolt figures he lost about $500,000 worth of tools, motors, generators, snowmobiles and more in a fire at his Lodge Bay school-turned-workshop last week.

That's not what bothers him, though. 

What bothers him, Rumbolt said, is how fast the building went up. 

Rumbolt was inside just moments before fire consumed the old schoolhouse. He swept up, lit the furnace and ran out for just 12 minutes.

When he got back, his workshop was fully engulfed. 

"That fire started too quick. Way too quick," he said. 

"[It] had to have been burning when I was in that building."

Rumbolt, who is the chair of the Lodge Bay local service district, has been trying to figure it out.

Fire crews from Mary's Harbour and Lodge Bay battled the flames at three fires in Lodge Bay last week. (Submitted)

Was it that old furnace? An electrical problem? Did the winds, gusting around 80 km/h have something to do with it? 

"It went so fast. Leaving the building, I saw no sign of fire and I had no fire in my furnace," he said. 

Firefighting gear fails

The fire didn't just destroy Rumbolt's workshop; it spread to and destroyed two other sheds belonging to a family who lives nearby. 

It also demonstrated how woefully unprepared Lodge Bay's volunteer fire brigade was.

Almost every piece of equipment in the fire hall failed, including two pump engines that should have provided water and an ATV designated to transport equipment. 

There's so many things that we need, and where do we start?- Keith Rumbolt

Fire departments from Mary's Harbour, 10 kilometres away, and Red Bay, 80 kilometres away, responded and eventually got the fire under control, but the situation has left Rumbolt and others in Lodge Bay feeling vulnerable.

"It's more or less an emergency here right now because we have nothing," he said. 

"We have hose but nothing to connect it to. We got a jacket but we got no pants.… There's so many things that we need, and where do we start?"

Rumbolt said he called a meeting to establish a new fire committee a few days ago. They're asking neighbouring communities to loan them some equipment until the local service district can buy its own.

That may take a while, Rumbolt cautioned, and it will require co-operation from federal and provincial governments. 

Staring over

Rumbolt ran a twine business out of the old schoolhouse. In addition to his belongings, he's lost his livelihood. 

"To be honest with you, the loss of items and tools and stuff like that doesn't upset me a whole lot," he told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

He's got plenty of friends who will let him use their tools and help him get by, Rumbolt said. 

The fire spread quickly and destroyed two other sheds, Rumbolt said. He said winds were gusting to 83 km/h that day. (Submitted)

Still, he can't shake the feeling that he barely escaped disaster by stepping out of the workshop when he did. 

"I keep thinking back to the fact that I may never [have] got out," he said. 

"And I kept thinking, what would I have done? Where would I have went?"

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador 

With files from Labrador Morning