MILL VILLAGE - Donald Whynot remained shaken Jan. 27 by what he encountered at a fatal house fire in Mill Village the day before.
The chief of Mill Village and District Volunteer Fire Department was with a few other firefighters and was first to discover the remains of the man who perished in the two-storey home on Mill Village East Road on Jan. 26.
“Not good,” Whynot said. “For a while last night, every time I closed my eyes, I saw him. But it’s part of the job.”
On Jan. 30, the fire department will be holding what’s called a critical incident stress debriefing for the roughly 35 firefighters who arrived from four neighbouring volunteer departments to help with the effort.
“It’s a tragedy and it’s a difficult thing, so the debriefing will give us a chance to talk about it,” Whynot said. “But I can say we would have been lost without the mutual aid system. We had trouble with one of our trucks, but the other departments were right there to help.”
Charred remains are all that’s left of the home. Among the wreckage sat what appeared to be a kerosene heater. A scorched black Jeep with a shattered windshield was parked about six metres from the ruins.
Whynot said his department arrived on scene about five minutes after getting the emergency page at 11:22 a.m. Jan. 26 and found the structure engulfed in flames.
“It was fully involved,” he said. “Everything was on fire — the whole front of the house, out through the roof, out through the sides, everywhere. It had been burning for a long while and there was no way to get in. We knocked it down pretty quickly.”
Queens district RCMP and the fire marshal’s office concluded their investigations at the scene on Jan. 27. Const. Natasha Dantiste said the fire is not considered to be suspicious, although the cause of the fire has yet to be released.
RCMP have not released the identity of the victim, but neighbours say the man’s name was Wade MacIntosh. They also say he lived alone.
“I’m really hurting,” said Albert Knock, the victim’s next-door neighbour. “He was a lovely neighbour. If I needed his help, he’d be right over. He was like a family member.”
Knock said MacIntosh was originally from Liverpool and moved into the house in the mid-to-late 1980s. MacIntosh had been a fisherman for several years and loved the outdoors, said Knock. They would often spend mornings feeding hungry crows that arrived on Knock’s doorstep.
On the day of the fire, Knock said he left his home for Bridgewater at about 8:30 a.m. and saw no sign of trouble. But when he returned at about 2:30 p.m., the road was blocked with fire trucks, he said.
“It’s shocking. I still can’t believe it.”
Heather Nauss, another neighbour, said MacIntosh was a loner but likable, and had a habit of greeting strangers.
She said MacIntosh had told her that he was heating his home with a kerosene heater to save money on heating oil.
In January alone, house fires have led to six deaths on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. That fact was not lost on Whynot.
“Homes need smoke detectors, first and foremost,” he said. “Make sure they’re working and check them often. People must maintain their wood-burning appliances. That’s very, very important.”