‘They saved our lives’: Paramedics see smoke, race to wake residents

Two B.C. Ambulance paramedics are being hailed as heroes for saving the lives of a Victoria couple, the victims of arson on Monday.

Merina Rogers was asleep with her boyfriend in their rented home at 1914 Ashgrove St. when they were awakened by the paramedics just before 5 a.m.

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“They saved our lives,” Rogers said, breaking down with emotion. “They saved us. They saw the smoke and if they hadn’t have, it would have been bad.”

Paramedic Paul Curtis was taking a patient, in stable condition, to nearby Royal Jubilee Hospital when he spotted smoke in the distance.

He followed the billowing smoke to a single-family home on Ashgrove Street, near Fort Street and Richmond Road.

“When we got to the house I saw large plumes of smoke and an orange glow behind the house,” Curtis said.

Curtis and fellow paramedic Andrew Burke immediately sounded the ambulance’s siren to alert residents and phoned the fire department.

The Victoria Fire Department received the call at 4:52 a.m.

“There was no response from inside the house so we made sure our patient was stable and kicked and yelled at the front door to get their attention. Two people exited,” Curtis said. “They looked very grateful when I last saw them. They looked in shock.”

The fire was set on the back deck and spread to the back of home’s rooftop, said Victoria fire Insp. Brad Sifert.

Once the two residents were outside, the home’s smoke alarm sounded. Had the fire spread quicker or gone undetected longer, the couple could have been exposed to poisonous gases or smoke or worse, Sifert said.

“I would call [the paramedics] heroes,” Sifert said. “This could have been way worse. If it wasn’t found that early, who knows when the couple would have woken up?”

The paramedics next raced to a nearby apartment building to alert tenants, one of whom pulled the building’s fire alarm. Resident Eric Moon saw the flames shooting from the adjacent backyard and came racing out.

“And that was it, then we took our patient to the hospital,” said Curtis. A paramedic since 1981, Curtis acknowledged it’s nice to be considered a hero. “But we’re just a couple of guys doing our job, doing what anyone else would do in our situation.”

The patient in the ambulance, he said, was also concerned and agreed to the detour.

Damage was estimated at $30,000. “I just feel really lucky that the ambulance guys were there and got us out,” Rogers said.

Rogers sobbed in the arms of a friend. Her boyfriend offered few words except praise for the paramedics.

All natural or accidental causes of the Ashgrove Street home fire — including electrical fault, or smoking or combustible materials — were eliminated. The outside of the house was well maintained, Sifert said.

“The only other thing is the human factor,” Sifert said. “It looks suspicious because of the time line and because we’ve eliminated anything else.

“It’s unfortunate. They are two really nice people.”

Victoria police are also investigating.

This is the 12th suspicious fire in Victoria in three months and one of 35 fires investigated by the Victoria Fire Department in six months. By comparison, there were about 40 investigated fires in all of 2013.

charnett@timescolonist.com


View 1900-block Ashgrove St in a larger map

Suspicious fires

1. April 25, 3100 Douglas St., in a dumpster

2. May 1, 700 Courtney St., in a dumpster

3. May 8, 800 Pembroke St., couch next to condo

4. May 10, 1000 Burdett Ave., vehicles in covered parking area

5. May 11, Waddington Alley, box placed in alley and lit on fire

6. May 17, 2500 Quadra St., in a dumpster

7. May 17, 900 Caledonia Ave., in a dumpster

8. May 17, 600 Fisgard St., attached shed behind Noodle Box

9. May 19, Beacon Hill Park, near Heywood Road, tree/brush fire

10. June 2, MacDonald Park playground, Simcoe St., woodchips

11: June 2, 240 Simcoe St., storage shed at carport/bike storage

12. June 23, 1914 Ashgrove St, back deck of triplex

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