PORT COQUITLAM — Neighbours are crediting the quick action of the Port Coquitlam fire department for saving the life of an elderly woman from a house fire Sunday evening.
The department got the call around 8 p.m. for a fire on Westminster Avenue, near Lougheed Highway and Oxford Street.
Fortunately, crews were in the area on an unrelated call, and got to the house in less than two minutes.
But this would not turn out to be a routine call.
When they arrived, the second floor was completely engulfed by flames and the front door was locked.
An elderly woman had apparently locked herself inside the burning home.
“We had to break down the front door, and she didn’t want to come out and struggled with the crews to get her removed,” PoCo fire chief Nick Delmonico told The NOW.
The situation was made all the more challenging, as someone, presumably the woman, had set as many as five separate fires throughout the home.
“Our first concern always is for someone inside who is in danger, and thinking you’re going to go in and rescue somebody, and have them fight with you and tear off your mask not wanting to come out is a bit unusual,” Delmonico said.
Eventually, crews managed to get the woman outside and knock down the blaze.
An elderly man also living in the home, presumed to be her husband, also made it out safely.
Marlon Mcclain’s house is right behind the burned out home.
From his house he could see flames shooting several metres high from one of the bedrooms.
“It’s shocking to see flames that high out the back window,” Mcclain said, adding he was surprised at how quick the fire department arrived.
Jason Lion lives down the street and heard screams coming from the burning house.
A few residents in the area tried to go into the house, but found the door locked.
He was also impressed with the response time and quick work by the fire department.
“It seemed like she [the woman inside] didn’t want to go,” Lion said, noting it took five firefighters to get her out.
The fire chief maintained the quick response likely saved the structure and a life.
“Which was a good thing, if they [fire crews] hadn’t, and that [the fire] had taken hold for another minute or minute and a half, it would have been over,” Delmonico said, noting the home received extensive damage as a result of the fire.
Neither of the occupants was seriously injured, but both were taken to hospital as a precaution.
Several neighbours suggested the woman might be suffering from some type of illness or dementia.
Coquitlam RCMP were called in to investigate the fire, but wouldn’t say much, other than to suggest the incident may have been a suicide attempt.