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Backstage electrical fire cancels Glee performance in Ucluelet

Tofino-Ucluelet Glee Kids and their supporters evacuate Ucluelet Community Centre
Courtney Johnson explains to an evacuated crowd that her Tofino-Ucluelet Glee Kids performance would not be able to go on after a small electrical fire filled the stage with smoke on Friday night. (Andrew Bailey photo)

Smoke from a small electrical fire evacuated the Ucluelet Community Centre on Friday night.

The Tofino-Ucluelet Glee Kids were getting set for their first of two performances of ‘The West Coast Chronicles of Narnia’ in front of a packed audience when smoke began to fill the space around 6:30 p.m.

The evacuation went smoothly and no one was injured. The young performers and audiences waited outside for about an hour, hopeful that the show would go on, but were told around 7:15 that it had to be cancelled.

The show’s director and Glee program co-founder Courtney Johnson told the Westerly News outside the community centre that several gymnastics mats had been pushed up against a wall and one was singed by a stage light, creating the smoke.

“I have to say, I’m pretty proud of the students that were backstage and immediately opened the curtains, poked their heads through, said ‘Courtney we need you,’ and showed me where the smoke was,” Johnson said. “I grabbed the mat and said, ‘You have to calmly get out of the building.’ Some dads came and helped us move the smoking mat out of the building, we called 911 and everybody evacuated very nicely and calmly.”

She said her students handled the situation very well and were hopeful to be able to still perform that night, adding that the fire brigade showed up very quickly.

“It’s pretty amazing…When the call came in it was immediate, so a lot of gratitude,” she said, adding the evacuated audience remained in good spirits and the crowd’s support was abundant.

“There are parents from both Tofino and Ucluelet and every single person has been supportive. One of my little students said ‘Well we know it wasn’t your fault,’ which is really reassuring and adorable and that seems to be the general consensus of people here so I’m pretty grateful that this town is wonderful.”

Ucluelet Fire Chief Rick Geddes was the first responder at the scene, followed quickly by his volunteer fire crew.

“There were some Good Samaritans that had taken action and moved a bunch of gym equipment that was in the way and had pulled the pull station on the alarm to get everybody out of the building,” Geddes told the Westerly. “I noticed right away the strong odour of course of the burning hydrocarbons and the tinge staining around the electrical socket for the light.”

He added he was proud of his team for their fast response.

“This team is great. A lot of our members had just gotten home from work and were just settling in,” he said “It was a really good, quick turnout and in the end thankfully there was not a lot of damage done and nobody was hurt.”

He said the community centre would “likely” be able to open up again on Saturday morning.

“We’re going to have to ventilate it overnight to get all the bad air out, but we should be able to use the building tomorrow, I’m hoping,” he said.

Municipal councillor Jennifer Hoar was one of the evacuees who had been excited to take in a Glee performance and she told the Westerly she was impressed by how well the community handled the evacuation.

“I just want to say, ‘Thank you’ to all the people that came out for the Glee show tonight and have had to evacuate, which they have done very quickly, out of the community centre because of a small fire,” she said. “The fire department was fast. I wasn’t timing because I was ’herding cats’ out of the backdoor as it were, but it was a wonderful moment for the community. Everybody stayed calm, everybody got out fast, the fire department got here and were clearing the smoke.”

She added that she encourages all residents to come support the Glee Kids tomorrow.

The Glee Kids are scheduled to rock the stage on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with doors opening at 6 p.m. A plan is being worked out to make up Friday’s performance, though an immediate schedule was not yet known.

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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