Ben Brotchie holds a jar of salmon salvaged from the smokehouse of his uncle

Quick response to Hardy fire saves fish

Quick action by a local resident may have saved a smokehouse from burning down.

PORT HARDY—Quick action by a local resident may have saved a smokehouse from burning down after it caught fire Friday on Tsulquate Reserve. It certainly saved a batch of fish.

Gordon Walkus had built a fire under a large tank filled with jars of salmon in the smokehouse, a wooden structure approximately 8-by-12 feet in size. He said he was just returning from work Friday when he drove by to see flames coming from the side of the building. At about the same time, his nephew, Ben Brotchie, also spotted the fire from the home of his father, across a grassy triangle in the middle of the neighbourhood.

“I looked out the front door and saw his smoke shed on fire,” said Brotchie. “I ran to his house and saw him trying to get his hose out. So I grabbed his hose and doused the door and some hot spots I could see.”

Brotchie said he was about to open the smokehouse door to get at the fire still burning inside, but Walkus warned him off, saying the blaze might flare up with the extra oxygen. Brotchie then spotted a small hole in the wall, close to the ground, and shoved the hose and his hand through to spray the interior.

“I wanted to save the fish,” said Brotchie. “He’s my uncle; I’d do anything for him.”

He had additional help before Port Hardy volunteer firefighters arrived in response to a call from Walkus’s sister.

James Brotchie was working across town on Hardy Bay road when he got a call from his partner alerting him to the fire.

“I heard a guy yelling and looked out the window to see the smoke,” said Yvonne Comis, who lives across the corner from the shed with James Brotchie. “So I called James at work.”

James Brotchie grabbed another hose and the two cousins continued to spray the structure until firefighters pulled up with their bigger hoses to mop up.

“Ben’s the hero of the day,” James Brotchie said. “He had it well under control when the fire department got here.”

The inside of the door and interior posts were charred black and several holes were burned through the plywood sheeting at the back of the smokehouse. Walkus will have to get some building materials, but he won’t have to start from scratch to restore the shed.

“It can be fixed,” he said.

Best of all, the canned fish was spared. After the firefighters left, Ben Brotchie entered the shed, gingerly pushed aside the metal lid and a brick in the cook tub, and lifted a jar out to inspect it.

“It looks good, uncle,” he called to Walkus before giving a thumbs up.

Comis then approached Brotchie and the two continued to inspect the shed.

“You’re not burned or anything, are you,” she asked.

“No, no,” Brotchie said with a laugh. “Got a little hot, though.”