A firefighter who was one of the first on the scene when the MV Holiday Island ferry caught fire on Friday said he was “absolutely amazed” there were no serious injuries.
Tyler Spencer, captain of the Murray River Fire Department, said there were some tense moments but the community worked well together to rescue the more than 200 people on board.
Several fire departments across Prince Edward Island responded to the call, along with the Coast Guard and other services, all doing their part to ensure passengers were safe.
“I’m absolutely amazed that we didn’t have any serious injuries,” he said.
“It’s just fantastic that we were able to react like that and everyone went home safely that night.”
Treena MacLeod, owner of nearby Treena’s Takeout, said people were handing out water and other items. Everyone wanted to help, she said, including her staff.
They offered free drinks as well as fries, poutine and ice cream to first responders who arrived quickly and may not have brought their wallets.
“Everyone was scrambling,” MacLeod said.
“We just joined the team. Everyone was in full force, helping each other. We just had the day.”
We just joined the team. Everyone was out in force, helping each other.—Treena MacLeod
When Spencer arrived on the scene, he saw a parking lot full of cars with people waiting to board the ferry to Nova Scotia, and the ferry in the water with smoke billowing from its chimneys.
“It’s not a show I would want to see again,” he said.
The fire was contained in the engine room, which has an emergency mechanism to release carbon dioxide to smother a fire should it break out.
Spencer said fire crews decided not to open the engine room doors to prevent more oxygen from entering, fueling the fire and potentially causing it to spread to other parts of the ship, even causing the sinking of the ferry.
Instead, they focused on cooling the deck and a nearby fuel tank, and evacuating passengers.
“There were just a lot of scenarios that we didn’t want to deal with, so we thought it best to get everyone to the safety of the earth and assess the situation,” he said. declared.
Although everyone got out safely, the fire continued to smolder for more than 24 hours after these efforts.
John Dalziel, who worked for 50 years overseeing shipbuilding and repair and was a safety inspector for Transport Canada Marine Safety, said he should have been extinguished sooner.
“If you can seal off the engine room and flood it with carbon dioxide, the fire should go out. And the fact that the fire lasted so long suggests it may not have worked as well. than he should have. And certainly when they have a chance to examine it more closely, they can assess why it happened.”
Damage to the 51-year-old ferry has yet to be assessed. Don Cormier, vice-president of Northumberland Ferries, said the insurance company and the owner, the federal government, will decide whether it is a write-off.
The future of the ferry uncertain
Gloria Shaw, the Wood Islands lighthouse manager who has deep roots in the community, said it was hard not to get discouraged.
“It’s really like seeing him die. It’s like a death because you wonder if he can ever be fixed and come back from this. Seeing that I grew up here and it’s all part of my life , it’s sad. It’s is.”
But she, like others in the community, is just happy everyone made it out safely and she was proud to do her part.
As for MacLeod, she said helping out that day was “a no-brainer.”
“We had to participate. We think it’s a great community and we’re happy to be here.”