Despite heroic efforts by police, fire and the family, a chimney fire burned a home in Laidlaw to the ground.
The home at 53900 Anderson Lane, off of St. Elmo Road, was engulfed in flames just before 10:00 p.m. Friday. The family fought the fire before it became unsafe inside, the fire department then spent until 6:00 a.m. saving what remained of the home. The family got out safe as did their dog Lucy, their two cats Rafiki and Pepsi are still missing.
Inside the home at the time the fire started were Stuart Peters, his wife Crystal Mann and stepson Tyson Anderson. Tyson alerted there was a fire starting in the chimney. Smoke quickly filled the living room and the fire spread through heating pipes in the attic.
“It all started from there. Fire, fire, fire and that’s when we reacted. We went running. It was chaos from that point on,” Peters said.
There was never a question whether Peters would fight to save the home he has known since birth.
“I was willing to risk my life for this house because when I was born at the Hope Hospital, that’s where I went,” he said.
The family sprang into action, Peters grabbed three fire extinguishers and sprayed them all into the air ducts in the ceiling. He then climbed a ladder and began spraying fire extinguishers into the attic surrounding the chimney.
His father joined him and began fighting the fire from the roof, while Peters fought it from the basement. At this point, there were no extinguishers and the family began using a garden hose.
The first to get to the scene was a police officer, Const. Gillis, who began to chop the floor out with Peters and then ran to take care of his father.
“He turned right into firefighter mode. I gave that guy a big hug after the whole ordeal because when he showed up he was right there with me,” Peters said.
Next on scene was Richard Wells from the Hope Fire Department, who told Peters he needed to leave the home as the house was about to cave in.
“I thought oh my god, I didn’t realize it had been that far gone,” Peters said.
“By the time I got out the back door with Richard, my whole roof right in the middle was all engulfed in flames.”
Peter’s father was taken to hospital for smoke inhalation, he was held overnight and released the next morning.
Firefighters continued putting out the blaze until 6 a.m., bringing water from the neighbouring Shxw’owhamel First Nation.
Despite being prepared — Peters had a fire extinguisher attached to every doorway in the home — the family lost everything except for Mann’s wallet and Peter’s work gear.
“I was fully and completely prepared and that’s what can happen. It can still get out of your control. Lost everything,” he said.
“My hair on my face is getting long, and I don’t have a shaver to shave my face. It’s the little things now in life that are really making me upset.”
Fire chief Tom DeSorcy said chimney fires, from the creosote forming on the inside, are common. Chimney cleaning at the beginning of the winter season or more often if the chimney is used year round, and working smoke alarms are a must.
Peters advised anyone who had gone through what his family has to run fire drills and seriously consider getting a fire safe.
“I probably talked about buying fire safes for the past two years and I never bid on one. I’m regretting that now,” he said.
“Everything in life can be replaced except for those sentimental values that you receive from deceased family, that you’ll never get again. That’s what you can’t replace.”
Peters said he has already had a lot of support from his employer Hope Towing and from the community he has spent his whole life in.
“I was born at the Hope hospital, I’ve never left. It’s one of the best places to live, as far as I’m concerned its the only place to live,” he said.
The family is staying with friends for the time being, but Peters hopes he can get a trailer on the property from his insurance company. He has too much at stake to stay away from his family — his father and great aunts and uncles are getting on in age — and the farm in Laidlaw.