Firefighters blast water into the attic of a home at 609 Burne Ave., which was gutted by an early-morning fire on Sunday. Five people are 0homeless and a cat is missing. Photo bt Christian Jensen/Special to The Daily Courier
The fire erupted on a deck outside 609 Burne Ave. about 4:45 a.m. and quickly spread up the east wall of the century-old house. Everyone got out, but the tenants had no time to grab any possessions.
A young woman living with her boyfriend on the top floor lost her eight-year-old cat in the blaze. She watched the house wistfully from behind the yellow police tape hours later.
"All I know is all my belongings are in there. Every single thing I own. I don't even have shoes," she said, declining to give her name.
"This is the worst Sunday I've ever had. - I lost my favourite thing in the world, my cat. Everything else is replaceable."
A neighbour across the lane heard the smoke alarm and woke up her husband, Darcy Lepine. He rushed over with a small fire extinguisher and tried in vain to put out the chair. The flames started burning up the wall and onto the ceiling, so he started pounding on the doors to rouse everyone in the three suites.
"They were asleep. I ran around and made sure the people on top were out . . . yelling 'get out, get out,'" said Lepine, 39.
Firefighters got the call at 4:50 a.m. and arrived in five minutes. They blasted three hoses on the two-storey structure, but the fire had already extended into the attic.
The five residents had escaped unharmed. A man in his 20s or 30s suddenly stuck his head out a ground-floor window on the west side of the house and called for help. Firefighters pulled him out coughing and dazed, and helped him to safety.
"He's all 'hey man,' so the firemen go over and drag him out of the window. He's got some smoke inhalation, his hands are burned and they took him to Emergency. He just surfaced out of the rubble," said Christian Jensen, who runs the Cherry Tree bed and breakfast next door.
The injured man had been visiting the house. Jensen believes he was intoxicated, so men in the house told him to sleep it off in the back. He's a smoker like the other men, who are in their late 40s, he said.
The house was engulfed when firefighters arrived, said Platoon Capt. Dale Calhoun. The flames extended six metres above the roofline. The fire was a challenge because the house was built in 1905 and had been renovated several times.
"The walls are very tough to get into to extinguish those flames," Calhoun said. "You've got lath and plaster in there . . . It's hard to pull that stuff off the wall."
Fire investigators were combing through the charred rubble trying to pinpoint the cause on Sunday afternoon.
Tenants have rented space in the house for at least seven years, said Jensen. The owner is insured, but it's doubtful the residents had contents insurance. Emergency Support Services is providing them with hotel rooms and food for three days.
Lepine admits his heart was pounding as he roused the people inside.
"You just do it," he said. "Just go and make sure everyone's out, that's all you do . . . I'd hope if something like this happened anywhere else that someone would go."
The young woman had lived in the house for nearly three years and had just moved into the newly renovated upstairs suite with her boyfriend on Aug. 1.
"That was the coolest house. It was so cool inside, so old. That's my living-room window," she said pointing. "It's a really bad Sunday morning."