NEWS
03/30/2016 17:25 EDT | Updated 03/31/2017 01:12 EDT

Sorry, wrong province: cellphone error sends N.B. fire truck to P.E.I. fire

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. — Murphy's Law was written for moments like Tuesday night in Cape Egmont, P.E.I.

A garage was razed by fire after its owner's 911 call got picked up by a cell tower in neighbouring New Brunswick, where dispatchers erroneously sent firefighters to a similar address in that province.

"Unreal — I'm not even really sure how to describe this," said Desmond Arsenault, president of the Wellington Volunteer Fire Department in P.E.I. "It was a just a number of circumstances that led to this."

According to Arsenault, the fire broke out as a man worked in his garage. His wife called 911 from their landline, but the line went dead. She then dialed the emergency number on her cellphone.

However, the women's cellphone signal was picked up by a tower in New Brunswick, so her call was routed to that province's 911 call centre.

"As luck would have it, there's also a Route 11 in southeastern New Brunswick, just north of Shediac," said Arsenault.

Cell service in Cape Egmont is not always reliable and New Brunswick is just a few kilometres on the other side of Northumberland Strait.

Arsenault said the New Brunswick dispatchers realized they were dealing with a situation unfolding in P.E.I. and notified the Wellington department at 7:43 p.m.

The homeowner was able to remove an ATV and two vehicles, but the structure and its contents were otherwise a complete loss.

"That's with the homeowner using his garden hose to try and hose it down while he waited for us to get there," added Arsenault.

The provincial fire marshal's office has ruled the fire an accident. Arsenault said the family of three are all fine and their home is still habitable.

Arsenault said the same thing happened, again on Route 11, a few years ago.

Colin MacLean , Summerside Journal-Pioneer