Dusty Ackerman had seconds, not minutes, to act when he smelled smoke in his Olds home late Wednesday night.
“I woke up abut 11:15 or 11:30 p.m.,” he said. “I could hear loud crackling and I didn’t know what it was.
“I got up and opened my bedroom door to a whole wall of fire.”
He didn’t waste time. Rousing wife Tammy, he raced downstairs of the bi-level home and managed to get his three children, mother-in-law and four dogs out of the house in record time.
“We had a 30-second window to get everybody out of the house, and I took full advantage.”
Thankfully, everyone got out safely. Even their two cats, which had been outside at the time, were are all right.
It was close, though. “If I wouldn’t have opened my door, within one minute it would have been too late.”
The house, which he and his wife were renting to own, was completely destroyed. The fire department, which was on scene within minutes, estimated the damage at more than $400,000.
Olds Fire Department says the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Two homes on either side also suffered some damage, including melted siding.
Insurance will cover the house, but the Ackermans did not have rental insurance and lost everything.
Their three children — Amie, 10, Montana, eight, and Talon, five — are staying with an uncle in Sundre for now. Dusty, a flooring installer, and his wife are at a friend’s house. Tammy works as a child-care program director for the Town of Didsbury.
Dusty, 33, said there has been a huge show of support from the community since the fire.
“The town of Olds has been tremendous,” he said. “Everyone and their dog has been phoning me trying to donate clothes for my kids, and furniture, and some money and some gift cards and all of that stuff.
“The whole community is trying to come together for a guy here.”
The local Dodge dealership has offered to tow his vehicles to their shop and get him new keys because he didn’t even have time to grab them when he fled the house. The dealership also gave him a loaner vehicle until the keys are ready.
The disaster has been especially hard on his wife and older daughter, he said. The younger ones are taking it better.
The two are now looking for a new home. One person has already phoned to say they have a vacant three-bedroom home available.
“I’m just trying to get my family a home base and go from there. It’s kind of a lost, hopeless feeling.
“The town made it a lot easier for a person.”
Donations for the family are being accepted at RBC Royal Bank in Olds.