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'It was terrifying': Fire destroys gas station, repair shop in Bowser, B.C.

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More than 60 firefighters from five departments battled a blaze that destroyed an Esso gas station in Bowser, B.C., on Tuesday evening.

According to Bow Horn Bay fire Chief Clayton Bucoviz, the first 911 calls started coming in at 9:56 p.m.

"Initial reports came in that we had flames about 30 metres in the air," Bucoviz says. "I would put it higher than that. My guess is probably closer to 40 metres in the air, full flames, sparks."

It appears the fire started inside a vehicle that was parked in one of the service station's service bays and flames quickly spread throughout the building, threatening nearby homes.

"This is probably the biggest fire that I've had in this area but suppression efforts were fantastic by all five departments," Bucoviz says. "Everyone worked terrifically in conjunction with each other."

In addition to the burning building, the chief says there were other dangerous factors they had to contend with, including power lines that were dropping onto the property.

Fiber optic cables were destroyed, wiping out cable and internet service for communities on northern Vancouver Island.

"Gas tanks were fully involved, propane tanks just tucked in behind the buildin, fully involved," the fire chief says. "Suppression efforts immediately were put onto the building and the propane tanks for the safety of the firefighters and the neighbouring community."

Michelle Bruhn lives near the station and says the loss of the business is devastating to the Bowser community.

"We're such a small community that it's kind of the heart of our community. So it's nice that they were able to get it under control as well as they did."

She says the flames were massive when she first came upon the scene

"It was terrifying, in a sense, because it was so big. When we first got here it was incredibly big and they managed to get it under control in, I guess, within an hour," Bruhn says.

Bruhn's husband Reine worked at the service station many years ago.

"There's not much left of the service station," he says. "It's pretty much gone. It's unfortunate."

The owner, who apparently purchased the business within the past few years, declined to discuss the fire Wednesday.

"The young owner is such a wonderful fellow and our hearts just went out to him," Bruhn says. "It's been here forever since I can recall. It's going to be sad to see it go."

A trailer located behind the station was evacuated, along with a nearby home, according to the fire chief. He says he and his fire department are familiar with the service station and its owner.

"This is where our department fills up, or did fill up our fuel for many, many years," he says.

Along with gas and automotive repairs, the service station also operates three tow trucks that are affiliated with BCAA.

"It's been here a long time it's a staple of the community," Bucoviz says. "I don't think there's a person in the community that doesn't know the actual establishment." 

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