Two teenage brothers are being credited with getting their three-year-old brother and grandmother out of a Fairfield home before it was overcome with flames on Monday.
The McClure Street character home was destroyed, leaving the family homeless.
Sam Parker, 16, was home with his two younger brothers and their grandmother when he smelled smoke. He went into the living room to see the curtains on fire.
Three-year-old Jasper was playing in that room so Sam picked him up and ran him into the backyard. He grabbed a fire extinguisher and started dousing the flames with foam, but the fire spread.
“I grabbed the fire extinguisher, but it ran out of the [foam],” said Sam, who was standing on the sidewalk in shorts and bare feet while clutching Jasper in his arms. “There was glass on the floor and I was stepping on it so I had to leave the house.”
Sam yelled “fire” to alert his 13-year-old brother Finn and grandmother Jacquie Edison, who ran downstairs.
Edison tried to call 911, but there was no dial tone on the landline. Finn filled pots with water in an effort to douse the fire, but smoke quickly filled the house.
“The smoke, it was just everywhere,” Edison said. “In 10, 15 minutes, just the whole house.”
Edison and Sam ran out the back door while Finn ran downstairs to alert the downstairs tenants of the fire.
They grabbed Jasper from the backyard and came around to the front to see neighbours gathered on the street. Several people had already called 911.
Sam, his brothers and Edison watched as flames ran up the porch and onto the roof.
“There was nothing more I could do,” said Sam, who is in Grade 10 at Vic High.
Monday was the first day of spring break for most Greater Victoria students.
The Victoria Fire Department received the call about 11:50 a.m. and arrived to see the front porch of the character home engulfed in flames. A crew of about two dozen firefighters attacked the blaze from inside at first, but was forced to take a defensive position from outside, said Victoria Fire Chief Paul Bruce.
A ladder truck doused the roof from above, while firefighters on the ground directed several water lines toward the porch and main floor.
Firefighters also used a drone equipped with a heat sensor to fly above the home and identify unseen hot spots.
The home was built in a balloon-frame method, which allowed the flames to quickly spread through the walls and into the attic, Bruce said.
Sam’s father, Mike McComb, was at work and his mother, Jess Edison, had popped out to a store. They returned to find their home, where the family has lived for the past decade, completely gutted.
Surrounded by family friends, they stood on the sidewalk and watched as firefighters tackled the blaze, which persisted for hours. At one point, the blackened roof collapsed onto the front porch.
Sam remained calm and composed even as he thought about all the family had lost.
“There’s a lot of pictures I had when I was younger and all my clothes, it’s just all gone,” he said.
The family had just finished renovations on the century-old home, Jacquie Edison said. “It’s an old house, but it was a good house,” she said.
Edison said both Sam and Finn showed quick-thinking under a tense situation.
“They did an excellent job. They just did naturally what they should have done,” she said.
The family is receiving support from Emergency Social Services, which provides shelter for three days and other necessities such as clothes, food and toiletries. The cause of the fire is under investigation.