Off-duty CFD firefighter braved burning building to evacuate neighbours

Mar 4 2020, 1:52 pm

When a suite in a four-story condo building in NW Calgary went up in flames, the person living next door didn’t immediately evacuate.

Instead, the off-duty Calgary Fire Department firefighter, who happened to be sharing a wall with the burning corner unit, began going up and down the hallway of the 49th Street NW building, banging on doors and alerting neighbours of the fire.

A release from the Calgary Fire Department states that the building’s alarm system had been working as intended, but that some people decided not to immediately evacuate, thinking it might be a false alarm.

When on-duty firefighters arrived, the off-duty firefighter gave them critical information about how to best access the burning suite.

The one adult occupant of the suite managed to self-evacuate but had to be assessed by EMS after inhaling some smoke.

When firefighters entered the suite, the release states, they met immense heat and potential flashover conditions — meaning that everything in the room could possibly burst into flame.

Crews managed to knock down the fire, and all 44 units were successfully evacuated.

Investigators believe that the fire was the result of cooking with oil, and the release included some tips for keeping safe while cooking:

  • Stay in the kitchen when you are frying, boiling, grilling, or broiling food. Turn off the burner if you leave the kitchen for any reason.
  • If you are simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it regularly and stay in the home. Use a timer to remind you that you are cooking.
  • Keep anything that can catch fire – oven mitts, wooden utensils, food packaging, towels, and curtains – away from your stovetop.
  • Keep the stovetop, burners, and oven clean.
  • Always keep a lid nearby when you are cooking. If a small grease fire starts in a pan, smother the flames by sliding the lid over the pan. Turn off the burner. Do not move the pan. To keep the fire from restarting, leave the lid on until the pan has cooled.
  • Never pour water on a cooking pan grease fire.
  • Never discharge a portable fire extinguisher into a grease fire, because it will spread the fire.
  • When in doubt, just get out! When you leave, close the door behind you to help contain the fire. After you leave, call 9-1-1 from a cell phone or a neighbour’s telephone.