WINDSOR – Precious mementos and heirloom gifts likely won't be salvageable after fire ripped through an older-style apartment complex on Wentworth Road this morning.
John Woodworth, who had lived in the building for about 20 years, looked helplessly on as firefighters tried to extinguish the early morning fire.
“We lost everything – except for my puffer, my keys and the clothes I got on. That's it,” said Woodworth, watching smoke billow out of the windows.
Woodworth said he awoke to the smell of smoke.
“I was in my bedroom asleep. I smelled smoke and I got up. My wife told me there was smoke coming from the basement,” said Woodworth.
He proceeded to investigate and discovered thick smoke when he opened the door to the basement. He told Mary, his wife of nearly 30 years, to grab the essentials and evacuate.
“I don't want to ever, ever see anybody go through what I'm going through here tonight,” said Woodworth, standing on the icy sidewalk watching as aerial trucks sprayed water on the building.
Woodworth is one of several people who have been displaced due to the fire that started around 1 a.m. Feb. 3.
Windsor's Deputy Fire Chief Jamie Juteau said the initial call came in as a smoke condition around 1:15 a.m.
“The first engine on the scene was our Pumper 5 and they reported a working apartment fire,” said Juteau.
“They ran a line to the basement and tried to knock the fire down,” Juteau noted, but by then, the fire had already had a chance to catch in the walls.
“When I got here, I came just behind them, and you could tell the fire was in the walls, working its way up to the attic at that point. It was well advanced,” said Juteau.
The apartment complex, which has four or five units, was evacuated, as was the neighbouring seniors/assisted living complex.
“As a precaution, on arrival, we did evacuate Windsor House... with assistance from RCMP and EHS, which is very much appreciated,” said Juteau.
The Canadian Red Cross is reporting that at least seven tenants have been displaced.
“Evacuees were initially taken to a church hall across the street with help from staff of the assisted living home, firefighters, the RCMP and EHS paramedics,” the press release from the Red Cross states. “Windsor House residents have since been moved to a motel until the fire scene next door is cleared and any smoke that permeated their building can be ventilated.”
Hantsport, Brooklyn and Windsor firefighters joined forces to fight the fire and thick smoke. Mount Uniacke firefighters were called to stand by at the WFD, and Wolfville firefighters were later called to assist at the scene.
“At one point when the crews were fighting the fire, we had a back draft – which is an explosion,” said Juteau. “It was quite dramatic. It shook some people up. No major injuries.”
The firefighters immediately took a more defensive approach to combating the fire, using two aerials and two master streams, Juteau said.
“Once we can get it knocked down to the point where we can overhaul it, we will have a look at going back inside,” Juteau said around 4 a.m.
Juteau said what made fighting the fire tricky was that it was an older style home that had been renovated several times.
“It had a lot of modifications over the years by the look of it so there's lots of nooks and crannies and a lot of room for the fire to get up and around and get advanced.”
It is unknown at this time what started the fire. Juteau said the fire marshal's office will investigate.
Although the tenants made it out safely, Juteau said he was unable to confirm any pet casualties as of 4:30 am.
However, Woodworth wasn't optimistic.
“I think one or two animals did not get out and that's heartbreaking, right there,” said Woodworth.