Familiar addresses usually crop up when you’re a firefighter in a small place like Charlottetown, but Jamie Lewis was a little taken aback by one that came up on an alarm on Oct. 3.
Lewis happened to be at the station when his pager went off.
“As always, you rush to the door to get to the first truck,” he said. “When I got my hand on the door, it said 115 St. Peters Road, Home Hardware in Charlottetown. Kind of a little surprised.”
“Surprised” because Lewis has been, for years, the general manager of the store.
Now, he was on the first truck responding to a fire there.
“I was pretty calm, all in all,” he said. “I had a good crew in the truck with me, going out the door. I knew I had a good crew in the store that were going to do their thing and get out and evacuate.
“We just had a job to do when we got here. We had to find the fire and put it out.”
Quick response in store
There were nine staff in the shop when the alarm went off and they handled the emergency faultlessly, Lewis said.
“We were so proud of that,” he said. “They did the sweep of the store…. The manager on duty came in and made sure there was no customers left in the store, and that’s when they saw the actual smoke. They were out before the smoke was visible on the sales floor.”
‘Jamie the firefighter’ was the first part of the night.— Jamie Lewis
His knowledge of the store came in handy that night. His staff told him where the fire was, and he was able to navigate through the dark and smoke and lead his team to it.
The damage was not as bad as it could have been, Lewis said. Fortunately, the sprinklers went off and did their job.
With the fire out, and his colleagues packing up and heading back to the station, Lewis took off his helmet and put on another hat. There was another job for him that night.
“‘Jamie the firefighter’ was the first part of the night for sure. He stayed pretty calm,” Lewis said.
“Afterwards, the adrenaline wears off, you kind of get a look around. Then you go, OK, now what do I need to do as Jamie, the Home Hardware manager?”
Getting back to open for business
A restoration company was called in, insurers were contacted, decisions had to be made about what his staff should be doing the next morning.
There would be weeks of much to do. While the damage to the building itself was not extensive, there had been smoke throughout and water everywhere. The restoration company estimated months to reopen.
But Home Hardware opened again this week, six weeks after the fire. Lewis credits the efforts of staff, who remained on the payroll doing work well outside their regular job description. That includes clearing shelves, wiping down products and restocking where necessary.
“Everything in the store has been touched and cleaned,” Lewis said.
In his 15 years as a volunteer firefighter, the Home Hardware manager has attended fires involving friends and family before.
While this was a little closer to home, it was in many ways the same, Lewis said: You have a job to do, you do it, and then you help deal with the aftermath.