ED TORZ/FOR THE SUN
The charred remains of Jeff and Jackie Wllton’s residence southwest of Belmont. A fire that broke out just before midnight on Friday destroyed the home. No one was in the building at the time. No injuries were reported.
When RM of Strathcona fire chief Dennis Pryke pulled into Jeff and Jackie Wilton’s lane on Friday night and saw the fireball the home had been turned into, his stomach immediately twisted into knots.
"These are local people, we know them personally and when you drive up the lane and the only thing that greets you is the family dogs and you look around and their are childrens’ toys … vehicles that you know belong to these people sitting in the yard — it gives you an awful gut feeling," Pryke said.
"Upon arrival the house was completely engulfed in flames," Pryke said. "Very little of the structure was still standing when we got there so it had been burning for quite some time."
Unsure of whether the Wiltons and their three young children were home, Pryke said the voluntary fire crew did everything they could to knock down the flames as quickly as possible.
When the call finally did come in regarding the family, it was good news.
"When you find out no one was home you breath a sigh of relief," Pryke said. "It’s not any easier to battle the fire but at least you don’t have that mental strain of wondering whether you are going to come across burned bodies when we get the fire put down."
The news helped settle Pryke and he immediately relayed the information to the rest of the firefighters.
"When I made the announcement to the rest of the crew that the family wasn’t home, you could see the relief, knowing full well we weren’t going to have to deal with corpses," he said.
And the call wasn’t the only good news the department got as Mother Nature also lent a helping hand.
"If the wind would have been in any other direction there was the potential for a lot more fire, because the yard was full of hay bales," Pryke said.
The damage to the home was so severe that a cause of the fire, according to the Office of the Fire Commissioner, could not be determined.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 17, 2012