By Tina Comeau
Firefighters battled smoke, flames and cold temperatures at a house fire in South Ohio on Monday evening, March 17.
No one was home at the time the fire broke out and there were no injuries reported from the scene. Thanks to the efforts of people who came across the fire, pets inside the home were rescued.
The home belongs to a family of four. The couple and their two children, ages 17 and 12, were staying with relatives following the fire and the Canadian Red Cross has helped with emergency purchases such as clothing and food.
Firefighters and equipment from the Yarmouth, Lake Vaughn and Valley and District fire departments responded to the fire on Highway 340 in South Ohio. The call had come in around 6:15 p.m. It appears the fire had started in a barn at the back of the house. Despite the cold temperatures that were causing equipment to freeze – not to mention the paved road surface as well from water from the hoses, making it extremely slippery – firefighters were reportedly able to battle the blaze as it spread to the rear of the house and kept it contained to that part of the structure. Still, the wood-frame home was extensively damaged.
Motorists happening on the scene before the firefighters had arrived had noticed smoke coming from the vicinity of the house. Among them was Yarmouth County resident Angela Pottier and her fiancé Shawn LeBlanc, who were on their way to North Ohio when they saw smoke.
“At first I thought maybe people had set the fields on fire but as we got closer, we noticed black smoke barreling out from the attached barn behind the house,” says Pottier. “No one was around so I called 911. The 911 operator advised me that they thought another call about a fire in South Ohio had already been received but patched me through to the fire department to make sure. The fire department said they were on their way.”
She said by this point another person, Matt Challoner, had also driven up to the scene.
“For a few minutes we just sat waiting for the fire department to arrive and watched as the barn went up in flames. We weren't even sure if the house was occupied because we didn't see any vehicles and there are so many older vacant homes in the area, you just never know,” she says. But as the fire started to spread towards the rear of the house, she said she started to panic, even though they didn’t believe any people were inside the home. “I kept saying, ‘There could be animals in the house.’”
As another vehicle pulled up to the scene, Pottier says Challoner and LeBlanc decided to get a closer look to see if they could spot anything through the front door. They broke the door to go inside the home.
“Shawn says at first glance he could only see one little dog, but once they went in to rescue it they found two more dogs and a caged rabbit,” she says.
Pottier says another person on the scene, Christine Doucette and her boyfriend, assisted in the rescue and stored the animals in their truck until the family arrived at the scene.
Those on the scene had also hoped to retrieve some of the family’s belongings from inside the home as well, but Pottier says by then the back end of the home was in flames and the house was filling up with smoke, making it difficult to remain inside the home. She says when the fire department arrived the attached barn was collapsing and she and other bystanders heard some sort of an explosion, which they presumed to be a propane tank exploding.
“The power lines were down and sparking,” she added, saying she and other others on the scene were thankful they were able to get the animals out of the house.
“Living in an older home myself, I've always said it was a fear of mine that our house may someday catch fire and no one would rescue our pets,” says Pottier. “I'm just glad we were there at the right place and the right time.”
The cause of the fire had not been determined Monday evening.