Fire chief pulls unconscious girl, 9, from View Royal house fire

A young girl dragged from a burning View Royal home was in serious condition in a Vancouver hospital on Thursday night.
“We did everything we could to save that little girl,” said View Royal Fire Chief Paul Hurst.
“She was alive this morning, so hopefully she pulls through. It’s very emotional.”
Katrina Van Winkle, 9, is in serious condition but stable in B.C. Children’s Hospital, spokeswoman Marisa Nichini said.
The girl’s grandmother and great-grandmother were also injured in the fire early Thursday.
A 911 call from within the house was cut off abruptly, but Saanich fire dispatchers were able to get enough information to send View Royal firefighters to the fire.
Flames were shooting out the back windows of the 2,000-square-foot single-family rancher when crews, including Colwood Fire Department, Westshore RCMP and the B.C. Ambulance Service, arrived at 116 Paddock Pl. about 3 a.m.
The girl’s 78-year-old great-grandmother was on her hands and knees inside by the basement door, screaming that her baby was in the house, Hurst said.
“We had to pull her out; she was quite determined,” he said. “She wanted to go for the child. There was zero chance she could make it. We grabbed her and pulled her out.”
The girl’s grandmother, 58, was found unconscious on the front doorstep.
On hearing that the girl was last seen in her basement bedroom, the firefighters — blinded by black smoke and engulfed in 700° C heat — headed to the home’s lower floor, where they knocked down the fire and searched for her.
She was found on the main floor in the living room hallway, Hurst said.
West Shore RCMP Sgt. Max Fossum said the fire chief rushed into the inferno with no equipment and dragged the little girl out.
“It shows you what some people will do to save a life. He was our hero. Without Paul there, I don’t know what the outcome would have been.”
Hurst and another firefighter dragged the girl, who didn’t have a pulse, onto the front lawn.
Hurst resuscitated her, and she was airlifted to Vancouver.
Everyone at the fire was responsible for the girl’s rescue, the fire chief said.
“The guys did absolutely what they were supposed to do and everything went seamlessly,” Hurst said. “Everything they have trained for and everything they have practised —  everything worked.”
The fire is believed to have started in a basement laundry room as a result of materials stored too close to a baseboard heater.
Damage is estimated at about $200,000, Hurst said.
A smoke alarm was found on the main floor. Due to damage from the fire, it’s not yet known whether there was one in the basement.
Next-door neighbours Steve and Jessica Sutherland were awakened by fellow neighbour Steve England, who reportedly heard the crackle of the fire and sirens.
“I looked out and saw the fire,” said Steve Sutherland. “It was almost at my house.”
The couple bundled up their five-month-old infant and fled.
— With a file from Sarah Petrescu
charnett@timescolonist.com

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