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Sudbury-area couple devastated after fire destroys their rural property

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A Greater Sudbury couple is devastated after a fire broke out on their rural property two weeks ago causing extensive damage.

Maurice and Tracey Lalonde said no firefighters showed despite several 911 calls. Now, four outbuildings behind their century-old farm house are gone, including a garage and a gazebo.

“Absolutely I’m thinking help is on the way, I’m figuring the fire department would be called, I figured our local department, the Beaver Lake volunteer fire department, a lot of those people travel through my yard,” Maurice said.

“We have a snowmobile trail and they’re all locals and I was waiting for a snow machine to come riding up any second.”

But after several calls to 911, the help they sought never came.

The Lalonde property is rural and it sits on the other side of the Vermillion River. Police and ambulance made it across the river down nearby Wirtanen Road, but the couple never saw fire trucks.

Deputy Fire Chief Jesse Oshell, who was on scene that night, said firetrucks were unable to reach the Lalonde home because of its rural location across the river. The road in the area isn’t maintained, which means firetrucks can’t safely drive on it.

Maurice and Tracey Lalonde said no firefighters showed despite several 911 calls. Now, four outbuildings behind their century-old farm house are gone, including a garage and a gazebo. (Photo courtesy of Tracey Lalonde)

“So when it comes to fire services and structural firefighting, there is no opportunity to perform that type of response in the City of Greater Sudbury,” Oshell said.

“Our establishing regulating bylaw clearly outlines and defines if there is an impediment to access, if there is a restriction in the ability of fire services to reach a property either by water or land, then we may not respond, unfortunately.

“And there are these beautiful rural properties on islands or across from rivers that do not maintain roadway access where our firetrucks simply can’t reach.”

Mayor Paul Lefebvre said in a statement that he’s sorry for the family’s loss and is glad no one was injured.

“Situations like these, where there is only water access to a property, are very challenging as they are considered unsafe and pose a huge risk to our fire services personnel,” Lefebvre wrote.

But the Lalondes said they pay property taxes to the city, which includes fire services. They have since been told there isn’t an incident report and no one was alerted from the three closest stations, Beaver Lake, Whitefish and neighbouring Nairn Centre.

“I think the shock factor for me was that they kept telling me that there was a plan being made and there was no plan being made,” said Tracey.

 

Maurice, along with help from two others, emptied the well and worked with pumps to save the house on their own. Heat from the flames so intense, it melted the siding off the back of their home.

Their last call with Oshell came 90 minutes after the initial 911 call. It was an offer of an air rescue, but they say they were told to let it burn.

The couple admits they lost access to their road, but they still can’t believe no one responded to their call for help.

Never made it to the fire

“They never made it to the fire, they never even made it to this location, they never made it across the river,” said Maurice.

“I just cannot believe there has been absolutely no regard for our safety, for assistance out here to us,” Tracey said.

“There’s been no offer of, ‘are you OK?’ There has been no follow up from anyone from the city of Greater Sudbury.”

A snowmobile, furniture, mementos from their past and a lifetime of memories were reduced to ash and rubble in the period of an hour.

Neighbours who rallied to save the Beaver Lake Fire hall say they also questions for the city.

“We feel as a community that we’re not only under serviced but that we’re forgotten about by being in a grey area they call it that’s just on the edge of Sudbury,” said Beaver Lake Fire Services chair Ralph Prentice.

“I have absolutely no faith in the city of Sudbury anymore,” said Maurice.

“This is the probably the last straw here for sure.”

Among the questions the couple have for the city, what are its plans moving forward? What if there’s a future fire? What if there’s a medical emergency?

They say have heard nothing from Tom Davies Square or fire officials and add they are not ruling out legal action.

The Beaver Lake Fire Services committee is organizing a community meeting for March where residents can hear from fire services themselves about their concerns. 

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