Ninety minutes — a mere instant in the march of time — yet a time when life hovered in the balance, as it were. At 3:30 p.m. over four hundred students of the South Peace Senior Secondary High School trooped out of one of the most modern halls of learning in the north. Over, for the weekend, was the toil of study and classes.
Ninety minutes later the high wail of the fire siren caught the ears of many Dawson Creek citizens in the downtown area. The R.C.M.P. shift was changing when the siren went and a constable got the location of the fire over the fire hall intercom as a dispatcher instinctively noted the time at 5:04 p.m., an hour and a half after the school had let out.
The fire, starting apparently at the southern end of the two-story structure, had almost swept the whole length of the building by the time the first fire department truck arrived. Ninety minutes later, the multi-million dollar plant was declared a total loss.
Firemen concentrated on keeping the voracious flames within the confines of the school, and from spreading to the library and arena, which was evacuated and closed for the night. We must indeed be thankful for small mercies, that no one was trapped in the burning structure, and beyond frost bitten hands, toes and noses, there were no injuries.
Almost minutes after the fire struck the high school, volunteers were on the job of fighting the fire, joining police in directing traffic and working on the hundreds of other jobs that comes with an emergency. It was not just the devoted school staff, the firemen, the police and volunteers who added their weight to helping. Mann’s Cafe and the Park Hotel Restaurant kept the almost frozen firemen on the job supplied with sandwiches and coffee by the urn-full, while Bob and Babs of the Windsor supplied hot meals to the relief men all day Saturday.
It was not long before many of the students, gathering in silent groups in their favorite haunts, were commiserating with each other over the loss of their school. It is this spirit of helpfulness and togetherness that makes a community great, and makes one proud to be a part of it.
The fire indicated one serious fault, which it is hoped will be rectified in the planning of a new structure, and that is the frame and stucco construction of the old buildings. We only hope, and are confident, that the new structure will not only be as modern in its way as was the old one, but that it will be as fireproof as modern construction methods and practices can make it.