Neighbours question emergency response time after fire kills girl

Emergency crews’ response time to the recent fire west of Red Deer that killed seven-year-old Charlotte Arlidge is being questioned by at least two people.

The girl’s mother and two younger brothers suffered burns in the early morning mobile home fire on Burnt Lake Trail, in Red Deer County, last Friday.

Neighbour Darrell Comis, at Les’s Trailer Park, was up around 1 a.m. Friday when the trailer where the Arlidge family lived was on fire.

From Comis’ memory, the emergency crews arrived about 15 to 20 minutes later.

Comis believes that in emergencies, municipal boundaries shouldn’t matter, because lives are at stake.

“We’re not even five minutes straight down 67th Street from us. There’s a fire department there,” he said, referring to the City of Red Deer facility.

“They could’ve been here in five minutes, 10 minutes tops, and 10 minutes makes a big difference in a fire,” the neighbour said.

“The way I look at it, it doesn’t matter what county, what district you’re in, if you’re close enough, and when lives are on the line, you get there.”

David Brand, director of community and protective services for the County of Red Deer, said its emergency department was notified of the fire around 1:10 a.m. and county crews responded within 13 minutes with a full complement of crews and apparatus.

Responding to the same call, the City of Red Deer sent out an ambulance — the first unit to arrive on scene — from the city’s Fire Station No. 2, on 67th Street.

City of Red Deer fire Chief Ken McMullen said that first unit arrived on scene about six minutes after the 1:10 a.m. call came in.

Brand said Red Deer County’s first unit arrived a couple of minutes after that first ambulance.

Brand said each municipality is responsible for fires within its jurisdiction.

Depending on the severity and the need, other fire departments can be called upon for additional support.

In this instance, both City of Red Deer and Blackfalds fire departments were asked to help out.

“We requested, as we were en route, support from our mutual aid partners,” Brand said.

McMullen said the county requested a water truck with two crew members for the incident.

McMullen said had a fire truck been requested from the city, as part of mutual aid, it would’ve arrived on scene around the same time as the first ambulance, as they were parked at the same station on 67th Street.

Brand said so far, the investigation shows the fire was severe even before the crews arrived.

“We have information as part of the investigation, from residents in the park, that shows the trailer was fully engulfed before any units arrived on scene …” said Brand.

He said the Red Deer County Burnt Lake fire station — Station 23 — is near Les’s Trailer Park.

But all three fire stations in the county’s Red Deer district responded to the call. A Google search shows Station 23 is about five minutes from the Les’s Trailer Park.

Lance Kenney, another neighbour, said he believes the firefighters from the City of Red Deer’s fire department on 67th Street would’ve been able to provide a faster response, given the close proximity.

“They might not have been able to save any more lives, or to save this trailer,” he said, referring to the home where the little girl lived.

“But they definitely could have done more for Mario’s (home),” he said in reference to Mario Roy’s trailer, which was next to Arlidge’s and was also gutted by fire.

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