A large plume of black smoke could be seen across the Comox Valley after a house on Rodello Street in Comox caught fire last night.

George Novak lives next door and says the flames were huge and he was worried about the ashes raining down on his house.

“And it started to go up the trees and the fire got really big and something exploded so I got the garden hose and was watering our sheds in the back,” said Novak.

Other neighbours jumped into action as well.

“We made it here before the fire department so we were banging on the doors in behind there getting people out of their house and helping get their animals out and then the fire department came,” said Jenna Everson.

“The flames were really high, they were almost rising above the trees and the trees were starting to catch on fire at that point,” said Jack Hill.

It was Tuesday night practice for the Comox Fire Department. Firefighters were at a local school about two kilometres away with members of the Oyster River Fire Department. Within seconds of the 911 call, 30 firefighters were racing to the scene.

“It was very showy, you could see this all around town, big black columns of smoke,” said Comox Fire Chief Gord Schreiner. “In fact in the background here there are some large fir trees, 60-foot fir trees that were candling at about the time the call came in.”

One man had been in the house but was alerted by a neighbour and got out uninjured.

Officials say the fire looks to have started in a shed on the property before spreading to the house and then to sheds on two other adjacent properties.

The hot dry conditions were a big concern and officials say if they hadn’t of been able to respond so fast, the flames could easily have jumped to other homes.

“Certainly it’s very, very dry,” added Schreiner. “In fact we checked the temperature this evening and it was 33 degrees, with 24 per cent humidity here in the area so the trees would obviously move very, very fast as they did this evening so that was a big concern.”

Thick smoke blanketed the area for hours but had cleared by Wednesday morning.

RCMP investigators were on the scene Wednesday taking pictures of the destroyed home and property.

Dean Stoltz