Edmonton fire dispatcher describes ‘waiting and hoping’ during fire that claimed life of baby boy
At around 4 a.m. on Aug. 22, Capt. Grant Ward received a call for help from a scared mom inside a south Edmonton home.
“She was woken up. She went to her bedroom doors and opened them discovered her house was full of smoke,” Ward, senior emergency communications specialist with Edmonton Fire Rescue, said.
In less than a minute-and-a-half, firefighters were on their way as the smoke turned to flames. Ward relied on his training and stayed calm.
“She said she was in the closet with her two dogs and her baby boy,” Ward said as he described being on the phone with 29-year-old Angie Tang.
Investigators believe outdoor patio furniture was purposely set on fire near the front door of the home. The flames spread quickly.
“I told her to take the clothes down from the hangers and stuff them under the bottom of the door to keep the smoke from coming in, and to stay low in the closet and don’t open the door,” Ward said.
Tang and her five-month-old baby, Hunter Brown, were trapped on the second floor of their home until firefighters pulled them out.
“I got information from the caller about where the closet was located in the bedroom. What the best access was from the stairway from the normal entry way as well as from the window,” Ward described. “That way the guys could go right to her.”
Ward waited on the line with Tang for 12 minutes until the line was disconnected.
“You’re sitting there waiting and waiting, hoping that there’s going to be a positive outcome out of it,” he said.
Hunter died a short time later from smoke inhalation and Tang was sent to hospital in serious condition.
“Unfortunately, there was nothing that could have been done to save that infant that was lost,” Fire Chief Ken Block said. “These are difficult calls whenever there’s a fatality, quite frankly, our staff take it personally.”
“In many ways, staff may feel like they’ve let them down in some way, that’s just a natural human reaction and nothing could be further from the truth,” Block said.
Watch below: Ongoing Global News coverage of the arson in Ambleside and resulting charges
In the initial stages after a call of this nature, a peer support group would be called in, as would the fire department’s chaplain.
Edmonton Fire Rescue Services has been working to include mental health of its members to the forefront.
“I need to provide them the support they need to have a long healthy career,” Block said.
Most of the staff within the fire department have taken Road to Mental Readiness, a program that can help build resilience and recognize when colleagues need help. The majority of senior fire officials have taken Mental Health First Aid, which is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis.
Block and Ward both describe the fire department like a family. From the dispatchers and firefighters to investigators, fire prevention team and fleet mechanics, all play a vital role when an emergency strikes.
“The fire service is a team and it’s the ultimate team,” Block told Global News.
“You don’t feel this type of call by yourself,” Ward said. “There’s the whole rest of the crew that is working that night.”
Bronson Woycenko, 19, is charged with second-degree murder, arson: disregard for human life and mischief under $5,000.
Jessica Tammerand, 18, is charged with arson: disregard for human life and mischief under $5,000.
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