Flashpoint blog: History repeats itself at White Point
Nov. 16, 2011 –
Have you ever wondered how the movie folks manage to film those cool
effects, like having a huge ball of flame chase the actors as they run
down a corridor to escape? No? Well, I’m gonna tell you.
November 16, 2011 By Peter Sells
Nov. 16, 2011 –
Have you ever wondered how the movie folks manage to film those cool effects, like having a huge ball of flame chase the actors as they run down a corridor to escape? No? Well, I’m gonna tell you. They build a one-quarter scale model of the corridor out of plywood, with every doorway, nook and cranny exactly duplicated. Then, that whole assembly is mounted vertically with a camera at the top pointing down the corridor, the corridor is filled with a flammable gas mixture and ignited from the bottom. The flaming gas ball races up toward the camera lens. When that film is superimposed on footage of the actual corridor, and a layer is added with the actors running toward the camera (after a green screen background is optically filtered away), the effect is complete.
At least that’s how they did it 15 years ago for the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight. The flaming ball effect and a few other technical shots were filmed at the Toronto Fire Academy. In fact, the majority of the film was shot in communities around Ontario. Unfortunately, a hot theatrical light at one of the location shoots was the suspected cause of a fire that destroyed the Windermere House resort in Muskoka, Ont. That structure had been a landmark since 1870, a symbol of luxury and an important employer in the Muskoka economy. The fire greatly tested the resources of the volunteer fire services in the region, and although the resort was a total loss, it was quickly rebuilt.
History has a habit of repeating itself, even when it comes to fires in historic structures. The loss of the main lodge of the White Point Beach Resort on the south shore of Nova Scotia this past weekend serves as a reminder that these types of properties, built to take advantage of spectacular natural Canadian scenery, pose unique firefighting problems. Long response times, difficult water supply logistics, rugged terrain – all of these factors have the potential to challenge any fire service. The key to success, as always, lies in prevention and preparation. Fire prevention measures cannot be taken for granted. As the size and number of resort properties in a region increases, the workload for effective inspection and enforcement also increases. A small town, volunteer fire chief can only be spread so thin.
When a property exists that poses a fire risk in a community beyond the suppression capacity of local resources, preparation is the key. Pre-incident planning, interagency liaison, mutual or automatic aid agreements and the exercising of emergency plans must be in place. Sixteen fire departments were involved in the White Point fire and another five provided coverage. Aside from any other differences, I wonder how many brands and models of SCBA were on scene?
If White Point reminded me of Windermere House from 1996, Windermere House likely reminded some older local residents of the loss of the Royal Muskoka Hotel in 1952. Or the one before that, or the one before that. We can’t do anything after the fact except look at lessons learned.
When it comes to fire loss, will White Point be the last resort?
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