Woman escapes city house fire
A Pembroke woman is lucky to be alive after fire raced through her McGee Street home Saturday evening.
City firefighters were called to 438 McGee St. at around 3:36 p.m. Sitting at the end of a cul-de-sac which bordered the Indian River, the dwelling was fully enveloped in a thick haze of brownish smoke by time first responders arrived.
"We had a pretty aggressive interior attack," Capt. Phil Corriveau, of the Pembroke Fire Department, said adding a complement of nine city firefighters had brought the blaze under control within 10 minutes.
The homeowner suffered mild smoke inhalation. She received medical attention from County of Renfrew Paramedics and was later released from the Pembroke Regional Hospital.
Officials said the woman, who was not identified, was fortunate to escape the conflagration. She had remained inside the burning structure to look for her pets. Corriveau said they had been informed there were 15 cats living at the residence, however, firefighters managed to rescue only two felines and two dogs. The other animals most likely fled the scene, the captain noted.
"She was lucky she didn't become overwhelmed by smoke," he said. "The flames were starting to burn down onto the first floor."
The fire began in the attic due to an unattended wood stove. To complicate matters, the dwelling's tin roof contained the heat and smoke. The fire's intensity finally blew out the windows shooting up enormous column of smoke that could be seen as far north as Mary Street. Officials determined the stove and its location ignited the blaze.
"It wasn't a certified stove and there was a lot of combustibles in the attic," Corriveau explained. "Clearance distances around the stove were not observed."
Fire destroyed the attic and caused severe damage to the ground floor. The woman has been displaced, however, she was being assisted by Renfrew County Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Services (VCARS) and the Canadian Red Cross.
The blaze was the most serious of 20 emergency calls the department has responded to since Dec. 21 when the region was hit by a major snowstorm. Corriveau said the majority of the calls over the holidays have been for much smaller fire incidents, CO2 detectors and smoke alarms. However, he credited homeowners for ensuring their smoke detectors were functional in all cases.
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist