News Local

Catastrophic blaze claims one life

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

Sean Chase/Daily Observer 
Silhouetted against a wall of flames, Laurentian Valley firefighters are challenged to battle a fire engulfing two homes and a garage on Round Lake Road late Friday night. Witnesses said a car in the garage exploded during the tragic conflagration which claimed one life.

Sean Chase/Daily Observer Silhouetted against a wall of flames, Laurentian Valley firefighters are challenged to battle a fire engulfing two homes and a garage on Round Lake Road late Friday night. Witnesses said a car in the garage exploded during the tragic conflagration which claimed one life.

 

LAURENTIAN VALLEY – Good Samaritans broke down a door to rescue an elderly couple from a catastrophic fire that destroyed two homes and claimed one life Friday night.

Fire officials confirmed Monday that one person was killed in the conflagration which razed a garage and a residential dwelling and severely scorched a second house. The name of the victim has not been released, however, eyewitnesses say a woman died in the blaze which broke out on Round Lake Road west of Pembroke.

“It's the worst kind of fire you can have,” a sombre Tim Sutcliffe said.

The Ontario Fire Marshal's Office has concluded its initial investigation of the scene, however, Laurentian Valley's fire chief stated no cause has yet been determined for the five-alarm fire that drew all department personnel and apparatus to an address situated near the intersection of Round Lake Road and TV Tower Road shortly after 10 p.m. By the time firefighters arrived, six minutes after receiving the dispatcher call, flames had already engulfed a garage and were threatening residences on each side.

The inferno generated a brilliant glow and a tower of smoke that could be seen by motorists on Highway 17. It was that glow that first attracted Mike Sonier to the fire. The Calgary millwright, who recently moved to the area, and his wife, Krista Duffy, were visiting Adam Lussier and his girlfriend, Vanessa Venasse, when they saw a bright light coming from the direction of Round Lake Road.

Going outside, they saw a pick-up truck abruptly stop and two females jump out and run to one of the houses. The garage was already in flames at this point. They told Sonier and Lussier that an elderly couple was living at the address. They proceeded to bang on the locked front door but got no response. Fearing they had little time before the fire reached them, Sonier felt they had no choice but to barge in.

“The next thing I know I am kicking the door off the hinges and I am telling them 'we got to get out of here',” Sonier recalled. “It was quite the night.”

They found a 75-year-old woman in the kitchen obliviously to the danger she was in. Sonier located her husband in the basement and assisted him to the upper level. They all then quickly exited the building. Venasse and Duffy escorted the couple to Lussier's driveway where she provided them with blankets and sweaters. The couple wanted to move a car and a truck from the yard but Duffy said she had to convince them to stay clear of the fire which was growing by the second.

“You could feel the heat from across the road,” said Duffy.

Learning that there was an occupant in a house on the other side of the burning garage, Sonier and Lussier raced to the front door of the dwelling. When Lussier kicked the door open, flames were already shooting out. The two men circled the house breaking windows to try and enter the structure, however, first responders soon cautioned them to withdraw. Police were seen stopping a family member from trying to enter the home.

Seconds later, they heard an explosion. Witnesses stated that the homeowner suspected that the gas tank of a classic 1968 Chevelle Malibu being stored inside the garage had erupted. Sonier said he was concerned about flames reaching a large tree in front of the second home. He believed that the flames could have jumped a ravine and spread to a nearby forest and other houses.

“If it would have taken that tree it would have taken the whole neighbourhood,” he said. “It would have just been turned into a roman candle.”

As firefighters battled to control the fire over the next hour, Sonier and his friends looked after the couple who were still in a state of shock and tried to keep up their spirits as the night wore on.

“It's good to see that you are still with us, sir,” he told the husband whom he nicknamed 'Dad.'

Out for the evening to celebrate her birthday, Duffy noted that there was nothing unusual when she and Sonier arrived at Lussier's place at around 9:40 p.m. She estimated she called 911 shortly at 10 p.m.

“It's a birthday I will never forget,” she said.

This is the second fire fatality in the township in less than a year. In October, a barn fire on Zanders Road claimed the life of 77-year-old Marion Turcotte. Sutcliffe said the emergency presented an incredible challenge for his department. Calling on mutual aid, the Petawawa Fire Department dispatched a tanker and eight personnel, while the Pembroke Fire Department took over as a standby unit.

“We were fighting a fire from two ends. It was going both ways on us,” said Sutcliffe. “There was so much flame when we got there.”

SChase@postmedia.com

 

 

 



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