Airport Hanger Fire 2009

Thats it for 2009 another massive fire to add to the list of past big fires in the city of Prince George B.C. This time it was a big old hangar at the airport that went up in flames. It was an old hangar built by the military way back when. Look at the photos to see how spectacular it was with that propane tank and all exploding. And then there may even be someone who died in the fire too. An update on this is that they sent in forensic experts from UNBC and no evidence of a body was found. About a year later they found the guy somewhere in Mexico or something he was having Wife and financial problems, don't know what happened to him though whether he set the fire or was charged with a crime.

We have had in PG in recent years an inordinate number of major fires. There was a huge fire when one of the local plywood plants went up in flames. That was some fire that destroyed the whole plant, and nearly spread into the nearby industrial area. Then there was the old hotel that burned down in the middle of town with the loss of a number of lives. We even had a spectacular railway crash in which there was a huge explosion as they got crunched. You could see that cloud of smoke for miles around.

Lets hope that 2010 won't burn up any more of Prince George. Well that wish didn't come true either. We had a horrific fire at Lakeland Sawmills. The sawmill literally blew up in this gigantic ball of flame. We had a pinebeetle epidemic that toke out 90% of our pine forest in the North. The trees are being cut into lumber but they are bone dry and hard as a rock. Apparently the sawdust is so fine and dry that in a contained system such as sawdfust collectors it can explode. We had anoher sawmill explode in Burns Lake do the same thing. Both fires resulted in the loss of life and horrific injuries. It toke 2 of these fires for them to figure it out though.

2012 has been relatively quiet now lets hope thats the end of it.

Massive fire leaves hangar in ruins

Police and fire officials announced Sunday afternoon that a body. may be in the debris of the NT Air fire.

"Police are investigating the possibility that a person was inside NT Air's hangar at the time of the fire," said Prince George RCMP Staff Sgt. Tom Bethune. "Family members contacted the police and advised that a male member of the family cannot be located. His vehicle was located parked at the hangar." The man in question is a 53year-old Prince George resident. Officials said they were already investigating, as a matter of course, the charred remains of the old, cavernous hangar to ensure no victims were inside. The missing man made that search more poignant.

There is still no word on the cause of the blaze that destroyed one of the Prince George Airport's oldest and largest landmarks. Early rumours concerned an electrical malfunction. The one thing not in dispute is where the fire started, the office space on the northeast end of the building. The spread was slow enough that all aircraft and major equipment could be evacuated from the hangar before being consumed, but once the fire got established, the blaze was intense and totaled the structure.

The fire was first reported just before 3 p.m. Saturday. Fire crews from the airport did initial fire suppression but for the main structural attack the Prince George Fire Rescue Service had to respond and by then, although only minutes, the building's fate was sealed. A retreat had to be ordered and the focus switched 'to keeping the fire from spreading to the neighbouring RCMP hangar and other buildings.

"When they go, they go. As soon as I heard it started I fatalistically thought, well, that's it, the whole thing is gone. And it was," said John Wyatt, zone commander of the Provincial Emergency Program-Civil Air Search and Rescue Association group that was based inside the hangar. "They can never replace it, historically, and it will be in the tens of millions (of dollars) to rebuild anything similar. They were built by the military in the Second World War. There were identical ones built in Watson Lake, Fort Nelson, Fort St. John and in Smithers. The other three all burned within a year of each other back in the '70s. Smithers, I think, is the only one still standing."

NT Air is still standing. General manager Bill Hesse said the employees of his airline and the other major tenant, Airconsol Aviation Services (Shell), went above and "beyond the call of duty to get the major assets out of the building (including aircraft technical records needed for Transport Canada safety accounting). "We've pretty much organized to start up operations (today)," Hesse said. "We have a bit of a short-term plan for our passengers, hangaring our aircraft, and our staff people. We're really fortunate that we had some quick-:thinking employees." NT Air's Prince George branch-flies regular flights between P.G. and the northern communities of Fort Ware and Tsay Keh Dene, it is a significant charter company in the region, it operates the city's air ambulance service, it does aircraft maintenance, and its sister company is Central Mountain Air. Hesse said he was surprised to hear of the possibility of someone dying in the fire. "It's not one of our people," he said.

The fire at the NT Air terminal at the Prince George Airport got an extra blast of intensity as a propane tank, left, bursts into flames.

The airport tower, and personnel inside, are silhouetted by the blaze in the background.

Things don't look any better Sunday morning than they did during Saturday inferno at the Prince George Airport. All that's left from the building which used to house NT Air is a pile of rubble.

Fire investigators, left, look over the damage in the cold, harsh light of day.

Emergency service singed

Two emergency services and almost a third went up in smoke when NT Air's hangar burned. NT Air is the provider of air ambulance service to the region, but the medivac plane was saved from the blaze and it is ready to fly on a moment's notice, said NT Air general manager Bill Hesse. "That plane is required to be hangared when not in flight," Hesse said. "It is a 365-day-a-year airplane. Andy at Hill Aircraft Service is helping us out there. We will be able to house our air ambulance service out of some of Hill's hangar space so there is no interruption in that part of our operation at all."

The Provincial Emergency Program-Civil Air Search and Rescue Association group did not fare as well. Although their trained volunteers fly their own aircraft, kept at various locations around the airport campus, or off site, the group did have equipment and assets lost. "We lost everything. We lost our search headquarters which we were very lucky to have donated to us by Joe Martin and Sons (owners of the building). They had offices up there too," said John Wyatt, zone commander of PEP-CASARA. "We've always had a backup plan. All the prepping and debriefing ,work can be done from almost anywhere and then dispatch everyone to the planes, but it is much more convenient to be on-site. We will be scrambling now." He expected most losses would be covered by insurance, but waiting was going to be tense, and things like special maps and charts of the region would have to be special-ordered.

The RCMP could have been vicitimized by the fire as well. Theirs is the next hangar in the complex, and there was worry the fire would carry on to take down that building as well. Firefighters kept that from happening. The fire was confined to the NT Air building.
Revised 2013 by Larry Gentleman