Survivors of Shuswap houseboat fire want cause determined

Click to play video: 'Survivor of Mara Lake houseboat fire wants cause determined' Survivor of Mara Lake houseboat fire wants cause determined
After his family narrowly escaped a houseboat blaze on Mara Lake last week, a father is sharing his story. – Aug 9, 2020

After his family narrowly escaped a houseboat blaze on Mara Lake in B.C.’s Shuswap region last week, Chris Murphy says it’s important to determine what sparked the blaze.

Murphy, his wife and children were on a trip with others from their COVID-19 bubble when their rented houseboat was consumed by flames in the middle of the night.

The family of six was among 21 people aboard the houseboat, docked on the shore, when one man noticed the flames.

“Right at about 2 a.m. Jon Witt went out to check the generator,” Murphy said.

“When he got to the back of the boat, he looked out the window and saw flames so he yelled, ‘Fire!’ That’s one of the things that I think many of us will never forget. The way he yelled it.”

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Read more: ‘Severe’ damage makes Shuswap houseboat fire investigation difficult, official says

Murphy recalled picking up his four-year-old niece and running up the stairs.

His eight-year-old daughter was the first to try to leave and ended up running into a sliding glass door and “bouncing off” of it, Murphy said.

“By the time we got off, in that minute, we looked back at this boat, the entire cabin was in flames,” he said.

The aftermath of a houseboat fire on Mara Lake. Megan Turcato / Global News

Murphy said they didn’t hear smoke alarms but somehow all 21 people and two dogs were able to quickly disembark.

“If (Witt) would have waited between 90 seconds and two minutes, if he would have gone out there that much later, certainly all of us would not have made it off,” Murphy said.

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Once on the beach, Murphy said the parents were scrambling to make sure their children had made it off the boat.

Read more: Shuswap houseboat destroyed in overnight fire; Alberta family lends helping hand

After escaping the fire barefoot, the passengers then tried to quickly move away from the burning boat down a rocky beach because they were concerned the flaming vessel was about to explode.

As Murphy and his wife carried younger children, Murphy remembers his six-year-old son being hysterical as they made their way over the “sharp rocks” with the boat still burning.

“We are suffering from some PTSD certainly. Some of the kids are having some problems, some of the adults are having some problems, but at the end of the day, we made it out,” Murphy said.

The group ended up receiving help and a ride into town from people staying in cabins nearby.

“It is difficult to describe how grateful we are to them because they took us in, they gave us literally clothes off their back,” Murphy said.

Read more: 8 dead after fire ravages house boats, marina in Alabama

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Murphy said it’s important the cause of the fire is investigated to make sure a similar blaze doesn’t happen again.

“This wasn’t a system that was working properly and we all made it out because the system worked,” Murphy said.

“The only reason we got off was because Jon Witt went back there to check on it when he did, otherwise we would have had people who would have died on that boat.”

On Wednesday, Tte Office of the B.C. Fire Commissioner said the severe fire damage, in this case, will make it very difficult to pinpoint the exact location or cause of the fire.

The boat was part of the Sicamous Houseboats fleet.

“All systems (on the boat) were tested and documented as functioning prior to the sailing,” the company said in a statement.

Sicamous Houseboats said Sunday it does not know what caused the fire.

Murphy praised the assistance the family received from the business after the fire.

Global News has reached out to the Office of the B.C. Fire Commissioner about the status of its investigation.

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