London police are investigating a fire at a home on St. Andrew Street on Wednesday morning.
Several people were inside the home when the blaze broke out at around 9 a.m. and two people were sent to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
When crews arrived at the scene, the home was fully engulfed in flames, and firefighters had to rescue several people who were on a ledge above a first-floor window.
Jim McFadden, who spotted the fire as he was driving home, helped one of the tenants to safety.
“On the north side of the house, somebody had jumped out of a second-storey window and badly broke her leg,” he said. “Myself and another gentleman carried her over to the other side of the sidewalk to get her away from the house. We saw two other people jump off the back roof.”
Acting Deputy Fire Chief Jack Burt, who was unable to confirm how many people were inside the home at the time, said it took firefighters about an hour to extinguish the fire.
“This house is a duplex where you have one storey above the other storey, so the only way to get at the second storey duplex was up the exterior stairwell, which was extremely compromised, so we had to ladder that structure, make sure we got in, got in safely,” he said. “We conducted primary and secondary searches to make sure no one else was inside the structure. We did bring a cat out of the structure, but there is a report that one pet may be inside.”
Thankfully, that pet, a 19-year-old cat named Smokey Bear, was later found. It was a major relief to his owner Sean Gregory, who lost everything else in the fire.
“I got a beautiful TV, a gold chain, I got money up there, credit cards, I don’t care about any of it, but I care about my cat,” he said tearfully.
Unfortunately, Gregory does not have renter’s insurance and has no idea where he will be staying after the fire. He’s also recovering from injuries sustained during a recent car crash.
“I have a broken pelvis and a broken neck right now,” he said. “I got hit by a car going 60 miles an hour walking home with my groceries, so I’ve been through hell, and now this? I have nowhere to go, nowhere to go.”
A damage estimate has not been released and the cause of the fire is currently under investigation. It has been deemed suspicious by police.
Police took an adult male at the scene into custody and said the arrest was made in relation to a suspicious fire investigation.
However, according to an update issued several hours later, police say the male was released unconditionally and the investigation remains ongoing. No charges have been laid at this point.