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Enderby, B.C. Firefighter Killed In Explosion

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A fire and explosion has killed a volunteer firefighter in B.C. | alamy

ENDERBY, B.C. - What should have been the routine mop-up of a short-lived fire in British Columbia's Interior on Thursday turned deadly with explosive force, killing a young newlywed who was rising up the ranks of the local volunteer fire department.

Volunteer firefighters in Enderby, a tight-knit community of about 3,000, responded to a fire at a business that builds log homes when an explosion ripped apart a shed, killing one firefighter and injuring another. It's the second community in Canada to lose a volunteer firefighter on the job in the past week.

The BC Coroners Service identified the dead man as 29-year-old Daniel Botkin. Posts on social media websites say Botkin was married just two months ago and had recently been elected to the position of captain and training officer with the local volunteer fire department

"(He was) pretty well-respected in the community," said Botkin's cousin Glenn Botkin, who lives in Oliver, B.C.

"He had just gotten a promotion in there. He was a very hard-working, clean-cut kid."

Dan Botkin was married in October, said his cousin.

Fire officials have yet to confirm the cause of the blast, which happened at about 5 a.m. in the yard of Sperlich Log Construction, an Enderby-based business that builds and ships log homes to Germany, Japan and across North America.

Botkin's grandfather, Dennis, lives next door to the construction yard and told CHBC News that he heard his grandson's screams after the explosion.

"It was kind of like a boom that you would hear in the army like when the big bombs go off," said the grandfather.

"I heard this God-awful scream. I yelled, 'Jesus Christ, phone the fire department, phone the ambulance, somebody's got killed.' ... Little did I know the screaming was coming from my grandson."

Dennis said he last saw Botkin earlier Thursday morning, sitting on the back of a fire truck trying to catch his breath before returning to fight the fire.

Mounties were just about to leave the site when the blast tore apart the shed almost an hour after the first flames were reported, said RCMP spokesman Gord Molendyk.

A second volunteer firefighter was hurt but Molendyk said his injuries were not life-threatening. He was taken to hospital in Salmon Arm for further treatment.

The Enderby Fire Department has 24 volunteer members. Chief Kevin Alstad said Botkin had been with the department for six years.

"Hard-working, always had a smile on his face, working to do anything you asked him to do — as a person, I couldn't find a better guy," said Alstad.

"I'm sure they (the other firefighters) are devastated, in disbelief. This is a tragic event for us."

Enderby Mayor Howie Cyr the sense of loss will be profound throughout the community.

"Our guys, you know, they are volunteers." said Cyr. "They train hard, they do the best they can each and every time under very difficult circumstances ... I have the utmost respect and admiration for what they do. They are great people."

The Coroner's Service and investigators with WorkSafe BC were expected to join the team searching for a cause of the fire and explosion.

On Tuesday, a volunteer firefighter in Ontario's Nipissing Township died while driving a pumper truck to a call.

Paul Nelson, 21, of Callander, Ont., was pronounced dead at the scene of the single vehicle accident.

Len Garis, president of the Fire Chiefs' Association of B.C., said there's little difference between the dangers faced by professional firefighters and those faced by their volunteer counterparts.

"I wouldn't make a distinction between a volunteer firefighter and a professional firefighter because fires don't know much of a difference," said Garis, who's chief of Surrey's fire department.

Garis noted there are about 4,000 career firefighters across Canada, and about 11,000 volunteer firefighters.

"So I guess the odds, unfortunately, when they're not for us, it might be a volunteer firefighter that succumbs."

Garis said the last time a firefighter died on the job in British Columbia was in 2004. He said B.C.'s Office of the Fire Commissioner would investigate what happened and determine whether any changes should be made to prevent a similar tragedy.

B.C.'s premier and solicitor general released a statement Thursday offering their condolences.

"We are deeply saddened to learn one of B.C.'s volunteer firefighters, Daniel Botkin, died while combating a blaze in Enderby," Christy Clark said in the statement.

"This is a heartbreaking day for his family, his community, and indeed all firefighters throughout the province. Firefighters set an incredible standard of heroism. They run toward dangers when the rest of us flee. And they respond to each call knowing they may risk their lives in order to save others."

(CKIZ, CGIV, CKFR, News1130, CHNL)

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