Barn burns in P.E.I. as 911 call goes to New Brunswick, says fire department

The Wellington Fire Department says a 911 fire call intended to reach them ended up being routed through New Brunswick while a barn was on fire Tuesday night in Cape Egmont.

'It was quite intimidating and pretty frustrating for the homeowners'

Firefighters douse a barn fire Tuesday night in Cape Egmont. (Submitted by Desmond Arsenault )

The Wellington Fire Department says a 911 fire call intended to reach them ended up being routed through New Brunswick while a barn was burning Tuesday night in Cape Egmont.

Just after 7:30 p.m., the Wellington Fire Department responded to a fire on Route 11 in which a 7-by-7 metre, two-storey outbuilding was burning.  

"Upon arrival, we discovered the structure was fully engulfed and quite advanced," said Desmond Arsenault, spokesperson for the department.

According to Arsenault firefighters would have arrived sooner, but the homeowners told him their 911 call was picked up by a cell tower in New Brunswick — across the Northumberland Strait — and was directed to emergency dispatch in that province.

"As luck would have it, there's also a Route 11 just north of Shediac [N.B.], on the southeastern coast of New Brunswick," Arsenault explained. 

"So that did provide some confusion between the dispatcher trying to identify where this property was," said Arsenault. "So eventually they did find out that the caller was from Prince Edward Island and they were able to promptly redirect the call to the dispatch services in Charlottetown for 911 which got in contact with our members."

The fire department is still trying to determine how much time was lost in the confusion.

Homeowner Raymond Gallant estimates he was talking to 911 for approximately three minutes before he ascertained they were in New Brunswick, although he said "it felt like an hour." 

"Wasted some precious time talking to them," said Gallant, who said he "wasn't very happy" about the situation.  

Warning to others

P.E.I. 911 calls made from the same area have been picked up by N.B. providers in the past, Arsenault said, and he's warning Island residents to ensure emergency personnel know they are calling from P.E.I.

A spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety in New Brunswick said in a statement, "I can tell you that every provincial jurisdiction has processes in place to deal with such calls. As soon as it is determined that the caller is in another province, the 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Point in New Brunswick will transfer the call back to the appropriate province or state for emergency response." 

Officials with 911 in P.E.I. say they are looking into the matter and have requested call data for analysis. 

Gallant said he does plan to inform his cell provider. But he believes the closest cell tower to his home is in New Brunswick, not on P.E.I. 

The barn was a complete loss and the heat from the fire was so intense it caused some of siding on the home to melt. 

"It was quite intimidating and pretty frustrating for the homeowners." 

No one was injured. The cause of the fire was accidental, said Arsenault. 

The family, well-known in the area for having one of the best-decorated homes for the annual Acadian festival, lost all of their decorations in the fire, Arsenault added. 

With files from Stephanie Kelly


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