It was a close call, but thanks to quick thinking from first responders, a young family was able to escape from their burning apartment building.
A duplex on King Street in Windsor has been heavily damaged by fire, which started shortly after 2 a.m. March 28.
Four people — a man, woman and two young children — were trapped inside.
Windsor Fire Department chief Jamie Juteau said he caught one of the children in his arms from the rear of the building.
“We had fire all over the front of the building as well as two vehicles in the front. As I got out to do my 360 (of the building), I was advised by other firefighters that there were people evacuated from the first apartment but the second apartment still possibly had people inside,” he said.
“I could hear people yelling from the back of the second unit — a mother, father and two children that still hadn’t got out. They had two youngsters, a baby and a toddler and they dropped the young fella over and I caught him.”
Juteau said he passed the first child to EHS before grabbing the baby, who was strapped into a car seat.
“A firefighter as well as the RCMP assisted in getting the gentleman out. We had him kick down the back deck wall and then he was able to get out of there. With the mom, a firefighter and Mountie assisted her getting across,” he said.
“It worked out very well. There were no injuries.”
One of the neighbours, who initially spotted the fire, alerted the tenants in the building about what was going on, Juteau said.
“Had she not done that, I would suggest this could have been much worse. She helped get some of her neighbours out at great risk to herself and she made a difference.”
Once everyone was out of the building, Juteau said they switched their focus to fighting the blaze.
The firefighters worked hard to keep the fire from spreading to neighbouring buildings, including a seniors’ complex next door.
“There was a little bit of siding damage to one building, but given the scope of what we were dealing with, it was a phenomenal save,” said Juteau.
The fire chief added that the apartment where the fire took place will likely need to be demolished.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Multiple fire departments from across the county and beyond responded to the scene. Juteau said the mutual aid system with West Hants fire departments “worked flawlessly.”
He also said that the town public works staff assisted by putting salt on the roads, which helped firefighters deal with below freezing temperatures.
“It’s obviously a very sad situation for the tenants to lose their home, I feel for them, but the operation couldn’t have went better,” he said. “It’s all about life over property.”
Residents should always have an escape plan in place and check their smoke detectors regularly, Juteau said.
“Don’t think this can’t happen to you,” he stressed.
King Street between Victoria Street and Gerrish Street is expected to remain closed for most of the day.
Dan Bedell, media representative with the Canadian Red Cross said they’re assisting with the two families that have been displaced by the fire.
“Disaster volunteers with the Canadian Red Cross have arranged emergency lodging, meals, clothing purchases and other essentials for a couple and their two young sons - ages, six months and five years - from one side of the duplex,” Bedell said in a press release. “Residents of the other unit arranged to stay with relatives in the community for now but will be offered similar Red Cross aid if needed.”