Mill Woods resident Jacob Smith had a hard time sleeping after jumping into action to help save his neighbours during a large house fire on Wednesday.
“I was just about to start to make a dinner around four o’clock, and then I just heard some screaming in the back,” the Daly Grove neighbourhood resident said on Thursday.
“There was a young kid screaming that his house was on fire and to call 911.
“So I quickly told my mom to call 911 while I hopped over the fence to make sure he was alright,” Smith said.
Smith had his mother throw over a pair of shoes for the boy who called for help, noting he was only wearing pants. He then rounded the corner of the house and spotted other neighbours gathered around a basement window.
“They had busted out the window and they were trying to kick over a bar or something that was in the way, so that we could get the kids out of the basement because the dad was down there, handing kids out the basement.”
Multiple residents sprang into action — several called 911 while others banded together to help the family trapped in the home on 35 Street, near 18 Avenue in southeast Edmonton.
“So they were passing kids along — we had a little conveyor belt going. Just moving the kids, getting them out of the way.”
He wasn’t sure of their ages, but from what Smith could tell, it appeared the children ranged in age from a year old to about 10 or 11.
Smith said some of the kids suffered minor cuts from being passed through the smashed window during the rescue attempt, but otherwise were unharmed.
“They were very stoic. They didn’t say anything at all — at least not that I heard,” he said. Other neighbours brought over blankets to wrap the children in, as the temperature outside was quite cool.
“It was pretty crazy.”
About 30 firefighters responded to the blaze at 4:11 p.m., with the first crew arriving within three minutes to a fully involved home, where thick, black smoke could be seen pouring out of the main floor windows.
Multiple people on scene commented on the father’s commitment to saving his children.
“His arms were really burnt and stuff. It looked pretty bad,” Smith said about the father, who became trapped in the basement and was rescued by firefighters.
“They did get him out pretty quickly and he was able to walk and he was conscious — he was just making sure his kids were all right — but they took him to a hospital right away.”
EMS transported the four children in stable condition to be treated for smoke inhalation at the Stollery Children’s Hospital. Their dad was taken to the adjacent University of Alberta Hospital, which has an acute burn unit.
“He must have gone back to get his kids out of their rooms or something because he… I really hope he’s all right after all that.”
Neighbours said they didn’t really know the people living at the home, as the family had recently moved in. Even though he didn’t know them, Smith said the ordeal weighs heavily on him.
“It was pretty hard to sleep last night, just thinking about all that and even today just replaying everything. It’s… it’s… I just hope they’re OK,” he said, struggling to find the words.
District chief Howard Samycia said the fire started on the main floor of the single-family bungalow and quickly spread. The flames were brought under control by 5 p.m. and extinguished just before 8 p.m.
Fire damage was confined to the main floor with smoke damage throughout the entire home. The damage is estimated at $200,000 with $180,000 to the structure itself and $20,000 in contents.
Edmonton Fire Rescue reminds all homeowners to have smoke alarms installed in every sleeping area, on every level of the home, as well as in the basement. They should also be tested at least once a month.
Residents are reminded to make sure everyone in their home knows the sound of a smoke alarm and what to do in the event of a fire, including having a home fire escape plan and practicing two ways out of every room.
The cause of this fire remains under investigation.