The cause of the fire that destroyed Janzen's Paint and Decorating in Winkler is still under investigation. Winkler Fire Chief Richard Paetzold says because of the nature of the fire and the hazardous materials in the building, they had the environment department come out as well as the Office of the Fire Commissioner to undertake their own investigation.
He adds, due to the building construction and contents of the store, the fire expanded quite quickly. From there, he said they realized the fire was getting out of control, and for the safety of the firefighters, they switched their efforts from interior offensive tactics, to protect the building to the south, which they were successful in doing.
"When we arrived on the scene, occupants of the buildings were evacuating. They had already initiated that on their own, so once that was confirmed then of course then we assessed what we had and came up with a plan... And then the police were there to assist us as well in blocking traffic because we had a lot of traffic with that kind of smoke. Of course, that attracts a lot of people. And so we had Hwy. 32 shut down for a short period of time, because the smoke was quite heavy and down low, reducing visibility. And we had it on the radio there just for people to avoid the smoke as well."
With Thursday's extremely cold temperatures, Paetzold says the equipment was freezing up, and they had some of their firefighters suffer from frostbite. He notes they were very grateful to Harval Homes for opening their office building for fire crews to rest and warm up.
"They opened up one of their rooms there as a warm-up shack. We really appreciated that we didn't have to bring our mobile unit out. And so we were rotating crews as needed. We also had Morden Fire come out as well. We utilized manpower, as well as their ladder truck as well to protect the building to the South. So again, we appreciated that. And then later on in the evening with our guys getting quite tired, we had the Altona Fire come out, and they had a crew and a truck and they helped us out for a few hours there."
As for the community support, with a laugh, Paetzold said, "we finally had to say no." He said it was a cold day for them, but everything people did for them, warmed their hearts.
"We had businesses delivering pizza and chicken and stuff to the hall for our guys to eat. We had people stopping by dropping stuff off at the scene at Harval Homes. Then Harval Homes opened up their office for us to use, and then we just had random people stopping by dropping off goodies and offering to get stuff. And so yeah. We definitely saw the Community support. We really appreciate it. And like I said, we were continuing to get phone calls and we finally had to just say no, we have enough. Thank you!"