October 19, 2017 7:11 am
Updated: October 19, 2017 3:51 pm

‘You gotta do what you gotta do’: Neighbours hailed as heroes for rushing into burning Surrey home

It was a chaotic night in Surrey after a massive fire at a home in the Bolivar Heights neighbourhood. Jordan Armstrong has the detais about how a neighbour jumped into action when he saw the flames.


A pair of Surrey men are being hailed as heroes after they rushed into a burning home to save an elderly couple.

But don’t tell them that; both men say their actions weren’t heroic — just common decency.

“No, not even close,” said one of the men, who identified himself as “Neil.”

“Just get in there and do what you gotta do.”

The fire is believed to have broken out just after 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday, at a home near 116th Avenue and 140th Street.

Story continues below

“I looked out the window, heard some yelling and screaming, and then I just saw the smoke, saw the fire. The flames were huge,” said Neil.

READ MORE: An unattended candle, no working alarms in Nanaimo house fire that left parents, child dead

Five people lived in the house, two of whom had managed to get out on their own. But two seniors and a middle-aged man remained inside.

That’s when Neil jumped into action, running into the burning home where he quickly spotted one of the residents, a man in his 80’s.

“We tried to get inside, but we got like six or eight feet kind of thing, it was just overwhelming. Vince was right by the door, got him out. That’s the dad.”

Vince’s wife, also in her 80’s was still inside, and that’s when Garth Howden, another neighbour, joined the rescue.

“Thick. You couldn’t see anything, it was just thick. I started coughing, you started to taste the soot and stuff coming out of the house, it was pretty bad,” said Howden.

“We went in probably three times, and on the third time we sort of saw the lady in there, and picked her up, got her outside.”

READ MORE: Crews knock down massive house fire in Surrey

Fire crews had now begun to arrive to a scene that Surrey Fire Services acting battalion chief Dave Wyatt described as chaotic.

“The first arriving crew was pretty overwhelmed with just treating what they thought were a lot of patients on the front lawn,” he said.

“And then, of course, assembling a crew to make an interior rescue, so yeah, it was pretty overwhelming.”

One resident, a man in his 50’s, remained inside, on the top floor.

Firefighters were able to get him out, but he was unresponsive. Paramedics performed CPR in an ambulance, and he was breathing when they left the scene.

His current his condition remains unknown.

It took nearly two dozen Surrey firefighters to put the blaze down.

The home was left badly damaged, particularly in the rear where firefighters think the flames originally broke out. However, the cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Meanwhile, the neighbourhood is lauding the two men who risked their own lives to save their neighbours.

That’s unlikely to change, even if Neil and Garth Howden are uncomfortable with the mantle of “hero.”

“You know the people, you gotta do what you gotta do to help right?” Howden said.

“So I wouldn’t call it a hero. Far from it.”

-With files form Gord MacDonald and Michelle Morton

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Report an error


Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.