Fire chief catches baby, toddler during house fire in Windsor, N.S.
Fire chief catches baby, toddler during house fire in Windsor, N.S.

A family of four narrowly escaped a raging fire at their two-storey duplex in Windsor, N.S., after the parents dropped their baby and toddler from an upstairs balcony into the arms of the local fire chief.

The fire broke out at around 2:15 a.m. on King Street. A neighbour across the street says she awoke to hear a car alarm.

“We looked out the window and saw that the car was on fire. My husband was on the phone trying to get through to 911 and I noticed there was nobody outside. So I ran across the street as fast as I could, bare feet and all,” said Valerie Sarty.

“It was just this one car on fire at that point. While I was trying to get the red house out and up, it was engulfing the front porch at that point. So it went very quickly.”

Soon, a second car that was parked in the driveway was also on fire. The flames had jumped to the house and thick smoke was enveloping the property.

Sarty says concerned neighbours soon joined in the efforts, and were quickly joined by Windsor Fire Department Chief Jamie Juteau and another off-duty firefighter, who both live nearby.

By then, a woman and her kids had already escaped from one side of the duplex.

Juteau says it was that woman’s bravery that led to everyone getting out safely.

“The lady that lived here who discovered the fire, actually she self-evacuated her children, ran back inside, across the front into the neighbour’s and woke them up to get them up,” he said.

“She put herself in extreme danger to do that. That young lady’s very brave. Had that not happened, I would suggest that we would not be having this conversation today.”

Juteau says although the second family woke up, they were unable to get out of the house because the front was engulfed in flames.

“I heard people yelling from the balcony out back, essentially that they couldn’t get down. They were there. It was a mom, dad and two youngsters,” he said.

Juteau says he “basically had them throw down the children” — first catching the toddler, and then catching the baby, who had been strapped into a car seat.

“I just went underneath it and reached up and said, ‘Drop, drop, I got him, drop,’ and they did and I caught him and just carried him out to the passerby, who took him to the ambulance,” he said.  “Then I went back for the second one in the car carrier.

“They just had to trust that we were going to catch him and he really had nowhere else to go at that point.”

At that point, Juteau says responding RCMP members and firefighters helped the two adults over the second-floor balcony by climbing onto the roof of a baby barn.

In the end, everyone got out of the building safely.

The town’s mayor is applauding everyone’s efforts.

“I can you tell you the firefighting service here did an excellent job in saving the rest of the properties around this building. And very tight quarters — there’s only a few feet between them — so they did a very good job,” said Anna Allen.

“It’s very scary. And we live in a town with a lot of older wooden buildings, which are beautiful, but sometimes this happens. So it’s very unfortunate but I know they’re in good hands right now and we’ll continue to look after them.”

By daylight, two burned-out cars could be seen parked in front of the heavily-damaged home. Juteau says he expects the house will have to be torn down.

The Canadian Red Cross helped the two families with emergency lodging, meals and clothing.

An investigation into the cause of the fire is underway.

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