PORT HARDY—The youngsters at Stepping Stones Day Care were treated to an unscheduled fire drill Friday afternoon when smoke from a barbecue held by the Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association drifted into the building they share.
“It was surprising, but the kids handled it very well,” Stepping Stones director Christina Cheetham said. “It was good practice.”
Stepping Stones occupies space in the former Robert Scott Elementary School building. VINTA’s office is also located in the building, and VINTA president Shawn Gough said the teachers were holding a “morale-building” barbecue on the final day before the Labour Day weekend and the first day of school — which was in jeopardy due to the ongoing teachers’ strike.
The grill was set up on the school’s deck, just outside an open door to the hallway. The alarm was apparently activated when smoke drifted inside.
A member of Port McNeill’s volunteer fire department, Dacen Brooks, was attending the barbecue with his wife, Sunset Elementary teacher Sarah Brooks, and spoke to dispatchers who called Port Hardy Fire Rescue.
As the alarm continued to ring, Gavin Texmo, a Port Hardy volunteer firefighter working nearby, attended the site and concurred with Brooks that there was no fire inside the building. The alarm was finally shut off when School District 85 maintenance supervisor Darby Gildersleeve cross the street from the adjacent SD85 offices to access the main panel downstairs in the school.
“Usually when (the alarm) goes off, it turns off right away,” said Cheetham, who noted Stepping Stones practices fire drills each month. “This time it just kept going.”
Shannon Berry, the grandmother of two of the youngsters in their final day at the day care, had just arrived with ice cream treats and popsicles for the kids when the alarm rang. After they and their adult supervisors filed out to the field behind the school, they enjoyed the treats outdoors during a welcome break in the day’s periodic rain showers.
Texmo did not leave empty-handed, either. After checking the building, he took up Gough on the offer of a burger before returning to work.
“Hey, this as good as it gets,” Texmo said while adding condiments. “There’s no fire, and I get to eat.”