Kamloops couple calling for improved fire response communication

By Chad Klassen
February 22, 2019 - 5:22pm

KAMLOOPS — Property owner Mahkua George tried his best to save his home last Friday on East Shuswap Road, but there was no stopping flames from burning it down.

"It's horrible to lose everything you have," he said. 

The fire happened during a family dinner. Upon spotting the flames, they phoned 911 but were denied service at first from Kamloops Fire Rescue. 

"My brother phoned and when he phoned, he said we have a fire at 891 East Shuswap Road, and the dispatch notified him that their understanding was that we were not within the fire [protection] district and they told him nobody would be coming," noted George. 

After some phone calls, it was determined they were in fact within the fire protection area, but it was too late. The family lost their precious chihuahua Charles who couldn't get out of the trailer. 

The trailer was completely destroyed by the time fire crews arrived. 

"We received the call, and at that time it was via cell phone, so there was GPS and it initially plotted the call outside our response zone," said KFR fire chief Mike Adams. 

KFR claims the determination that the George's property was within the response zone took a couple minutes. 

George and his partner Katie Smith, however, say it was longer than that. They hope there's improved communication so fire dispatchers can determine response more quickly, so another such tragedy can be prevented.

"It would've been better to have that initial response," said Smith. "And even have the fire department put him on hold, just say 'give us a second and let us dig further, do more investigating' before we hang up on you, leaving you feeling hopeless that there is no help for you."

George added "I would hate for this to happen to anybody else, to lose a family member, or even just your personal belongings you work so hard for."

Both are currently living at his parents place next door for the meantime. If you would like to help, you can donate to their recovery here. Their goal is $10,000.

Snowfall contributes to multiple vehicle incidents around Kamloops