Lacombe’s fire chief praised the quick actions of a hotel manager who spotted an early-morning New Year’s Day fire in a nearby home and alerted residents to the danger.
“If it wasn’t for her noticing and being aware of what was going on it could have been a whole lot worse situation, for sure,” said Fire Chief Dennis Cole on Thursday.
The 4:30 a.m. fire was spotted and called in by Jenny Evans at a nearby Travelodge by Wyndham Lacombe. After calling 911, she raced over to the row house-style four-plex to help.
Evans said she was doing a security check around the hotel when she heard a fire alarm. At first, she thought it was from inside the hotel.
“I was just about to go back in when I could hear someone opening a window. There was a young girl, probably 20 years old, she was screaming for help.”
Evans immediately called 911 as the woman climbed out of the window. Unfortunately, she slipped and fell as she tried to make her escape and lay injured on the ground.
Through the front door, Evans could see the fire reflected on a window at the back of the house near 54th Avenue and 45th Street.
“There was fire all across the stove and the counter,” she said.
Adding to the scary situation were difficulties in maintaining contact with the 911 operator on the cordless phone she had with her.
“I couldn’t get in contact with them anymore so I just started knocking on doors because there was smoke coming out the front door. “You could tell it was getting (worse).
“There was a fire and a hurt girl, I was like, ‘Gosh, I hope someone just answers their door and helps me.’”
A couple, their young daughter and two family cats were the first to flee their homes, followed by an older couple in another unit. They got blankets to keep the injured woman warm until the ambulance arrived.
Fortunately, the unit directly adjacent to the one that was burned was empty. The residents had left for the holidays.
Later, she offered the residents who had to flee their homes free stays at the hotel.
“The fire trucks are still out there. Everyone is just standing in the street and it’s -15 C out. They’re just in their jackets and their jammies.
“I asked them, ‘Please, please, just come and warm up and let’s get you into a room.’”
The older couple expects to be able to return home in the next day. The family of three will still have to wait a few days more while smoke and water damage in their unit is repaired.
Evans, who is assistant general manager and had taken the night shift so her staff could celebrate on New Year’s Eve, was glad she could help.
“There was no second thought. You just go and do it.”
The fire chief said Evans’ quick call and actions allowed firefighters to prevent the fire from spreading to other units.
“If there was nobody around it could have gotten a lot worse pretty quickly.”
Cole said a dozen Lacombe paid on-call firefighters and himself responded to the 4:34 a.m. 911 call and were on scene by 4:41 a.m.
When they got there, there was fire in the kitchen that had climbed up the stairwell, trapping the resident upstairs. No others were injured in the fire, which took about 45 minutes to put out.
“There was no extension (of the fire) to other units. It was contained to the single unit.”
The unit where the fire started is likely a write-off, he said. No damage estimate is available yet.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Firefighters have not yet been able to talk to the woman who escaped from her blazing home because of her injuries. She is still recovering in hospital.
It was a tough way to start the new year for the residents and the firefighters, who were called in from home in the early hours of New Year’s Day.
Firefighters were on scene for nearly eight hours, ensuring the fire did not flare up again.
The response shows the commitment of the local volunteers, he said.
Even during the holidays when many are celebrating, a 12-member firefighter platoon is on standby ready to respond within minutes.
“That’s why we have people on standby. It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday or the middle of the week, we still have people ready to go.”