Dundas couple killed in house fire were ‘wonderful’ neighbours

Dundas couple killed in house fire were ‘wonderful’ neighbours
The Hamilton Spectator

The Dundas neighbours of Carla and Alan Rutherford are in shock at the couple's death after a suspicious early-morning fire that saw flames shooting above the treeline from their home.

Carla Rutherford, 65, was pronounced dead at the scene Monday after firefighters, arriving at 3:45 a.m., pulled her from her burning home at 8 Greening Crt., a quiet cul-de-sac near York Road.
 
Her husband, Alan Rutherford, 64, was already outside when first responders arrived. He was rushed to the Hamilton General Hospital with burns to 80 per cent of his body, where he died Monday afternoon, police confirmed.
 
"They were incredibly warm, friendly people," said neighbour Alyssa Michalsky. "You'll hear that amplified by whoever you talk to, and all over the street."
 
Michalsky said Alan would clear her snow in winter and mow her grass in summer to help her out. He always gave her great tips on how to do things around her house and how to prune her tree in front, she added. But she wasn't the only one he helped.
 
"When he had his gas mower and his snowblower out, he'd do the whole block," she said.
 
Carla "was always so happy" added Michalsky. When walking the couple's two chocolate Labradors, Carla would often stop by so the dogs could visit with Michalsky's cat Chewy (Chewbacca), she said.
 
Jan Graves, commodore of the Hamilton Royal Yacht Club said the couple were longtime members and volunteers. Alan was a race officer and involved in regattas and Carla was a talented quiltmaker who donated her quilts for fundraising, among other things, Graves said.
 
"They both had a wonderful sense of humour. Always engaged. Wonderful people. They were a lovely couple and everyone is just unbelievably sad at the loss."
 
The RHYC has cancelled its Thursday evening races and will replace them with a procession on the bay, as well as dedicate its anniversary sailpast on Saturday to the Rutherfords, she said.
 
Michalsky, who awoke to the sound of sirens, said she is surprised by the fire's intensity, and that flames were shooting above the treeline.
 
"It was bizarre. So big, so fast."
 
She was shocked to learn of Carla's death, saying she had assumed the couple and the dogs got out of the one-storey house safely.
 
"I can't believe what happened."
 
She had often seen the couple walking their dogs, and Alan running — he was an avid runner, she says. Carla had just stopped by to see the cat on Friday with two young girls that Michalsky assumed were her grandchildren.
 
Carla's Facebook page shows the couple in photos marking special holidays. Her profile says she is retired from Hamilton Health Sciences.
 
The fire is being investigated by homicide detectives as "a precautionary measure," said Staff Sgt. Steve Bereziuk, of the major crime unit.
 
"We don't know what caused the fire," he said. "Out of an abundance of caution we're treating it as suspicious until we know what caused the fire."
 
The damage to the home is "colossal," he said.
 
The first firefighters on scene found "heavy smoke and visible flames from the roof," said Hamilton Fire Chief Dave Cunliffe.
 
An investigator from the Office of the Fire Marshal of Ontario will help determine the cause of the fire, but the investigation is expected to remain in the hands of Hamilton police detectives.
 
Firefighters also rescued a family dog from the basement before the roof collapsed, Cunliffe said. The pet is alive and was handed over to a neighbour.
 
There was no word on a second dog.
 
The fire didn't spread to any neighbouring properties.
 
The "intense fire," which didn't spread to any neighbouring properties, forced the fire department to draw crews from across the city. In all, about 35 firefighters and 11 vehicles came to the scene.
 
Because of the roof collapse, firefighters fought the blaze from outside, including from above using an aerial truck. Cunliffe said the fire was under control in 30 to 40 minutes.
 
The quiet cul-de-sac, with mature trees and well-kept gardens still had fire and emergency trucks taking up most of the road at 6 p.m. The house backs on to Grove Cemetery.
 
Bereziuk said the fire scene is "tough" to investigate because of the extensive damage.
 
Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Ben Adams at 905-546-3836.