Neighbours rescue teens from Cedar house fire

NANAIMO – Fire chief credits neighbours' quick action with saving lives of three teens in weekend house fire.

North Cedar volunteer firefighters douse a house fire in Cedar Sunday morning.

North Cedar volunteer firefighters douse a house fire in Cedar Sunday morning.

Three teens have their neighbours to thank for getting them out of a fire that erupted at a home south of Nanaimo on the weekend.

Residents in Cedar were startled into action at about 9:30 a.m. Sunday when they heard the loud rush of an overheated barbecue propane tank venting – the first sign something had gone seriously wrong – at a home at 1497 Emma Way.

Wendy Kennedy and her husband Eric were just getting their morning coffee when they heard the commotion.

“We had just sat down with our coffee when all of a sudden we heard this loud noise,” Wendy said. “We just looked at each other and didn’t know what the heck it was. To describe it, it sounded just like a huge jet engine right in our front yard. It was so loud. I don’t know how those three people in the house didn’t wake up.”

Eric, a former firefighter with the North Cedar Volunteer Fire Department, rushed to the house two doors down while Wendy called 911.

Eric searched through the house and hollered until two teen girls – completely unaware of the fire – answered and he got them out of the house.

Wendy sat with the girls, whom she said appeared to be groggy and in shock while Eric and another neighbour attempted to control the fire with garden hoses.

A third neighbour, Paul Amann, arrived on scene about the time the girls remembered there was a teenage boy still sleeping in the basement.

“Paul ran in,” Wendy said. “They told him what room he was in. Fortunately it was in the basement because the roof was already in flames.”

The owners of the home were away for the weekend. One of the teenage girls lives with the family and the other two were friends staying over.

Firefighters from North Cedar Volunteer Fire Department arrived as the roof was collapsing.

Percy Tipping, North Cedar fire chief, said only a preliminary investigation into the fire had been done as of Tuesday morning, but the propane igniting in the barbecue tank appears to have been triggered by a fire already burning outside the house. What started the fire is still to be determined.

“At this point it looks like it was secondary to the initial ignition, but it was external to the house, so definitely outside,” Tipping said. “Police are not involved at this point and a formal investigation has not actually been done, so there’s nothing official yet.”

Tipping said Cranberry Volunteer Fire Department assisted with the fire, which took about 40 minutes to bring under control. Fire crews were on the scene for about three hours.

Tipping confirmed the homeowners had fire insurance.

He said the house suffered surprisingly little fire damage to its interior, which was heavily smoke- and water-damaged throughout.

Wendy said neighbours got together and managed to save important family mementos, such as photo albums and other irreplaceable items.

“The neighbours really came together and that’s the nice thing about this quiet little cul-de-sac,” Wendy said. “Everybody knows everyone and everybody sticks together.”

Tipping credits the actions taken by people living in the neighbourhood with preventing injury or loss of life in the fire.

“The quick thinking of the neighbours certainly prevented injury and they should be commended for that,” Tipping said.