‘At least we’re out’: Family fortunate to escape house fire in Courtenay

'At least we're out': Family fortunate to escape house fire in Courtenay
Firefighters battle a structure fire in the 1000-block of Arrowsmith Avenue on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2023. Crews were called to the fire around 6:15 a.m., and all occupants made it out safely, according to Courtenay fire chief Kurt MacDonald.

A Courtenay family safely escaped an early-morning fire that badly damaged their home, and one homeowner says tragedy may have struck had they not been awake at the time.

Around 6:15 a.m. Wednesday, crews from the Courtenay Fire Department were called to the structure fire in the 1000-block of Arrowsmith Avenue, off Malahat Drive in Courtenay, according to fire chief Kurt MacDonald.

“Upon arrival, we found that the house had about two-thirds of the roof fully involved,” said MacDonald, adding he’s fortunate everyone escaped unscathed.

“All four occupants were out upon arrival. Once we got set up, we were able to get some water on the fire and knock it down.”

Homeowner Phillip Hinksman says he was home with his wife and two daughters when he discovered a fire in an upstairs bathroom.

“I heard a little bit of a bang, and then there was a slight smell of smoke. And then my wife said she smelled a little bit of smoke,” recalled Hinksman.

“I went to investigate, and the ceiling fan had broken into two. One part on the floor was on fire, and where the mechanical part was was on fire.”

Then he sprang into action.

“I ran downstairs to get a fire extinguisher, ran upstairs and did what I could while my wife was on the phone with 911,” he said. “As soon as it exhausted the extinguisher, I went and got the kids out as quick as we could and waited.”

MacDonald says firefighters were on the scene of another structure fire when they were called to the blaze on Arrowsmith Avenue.

“We were also wrapping up a structure fire on Johnson Road that we got called into probably about a half hour before this one,” said the fire chief, noting that the aftermath of the Johnson fire wasn’t as significant as the one on Arrowsmith.

“Fortunately, with our mutual-aid agreement, we had the Oyster River and Merville fire departments assist us with the Johnson Road fire, and we had the Comox Fire Rescue here helping us with (this one on Arrowsmith).”

It wasn’t an easy job, however.

“Some complications just with trees on the property and the construction of the home itself have made this a very stubborn fire to fight,” added MacDonald.

Now Hinksman’s staying optimistic, saying he’s grateful his family, including their dog, was able to escape the fire that spread within just minutes.

He says the family is insured and setting their sights on finding a new place to live.

“As sad as the whole thing is, at least we’re all out. At least it happened while we were awake. It was a quick response by everybody,” he added.

“It went from zero to 60 very, very fast. Our neighbour was at the door as soon as we had come down, saying that our house was on fire. He had already known. It went from a little tiny fire in a ceiling fan to the whole roof gone in a few minutes.”

Even a mannequin named Phil made it out safely.

“Phil is a decoration from my work that we had, and I had it sitting on the side of the house. It was rescued by the fire department with some good laughs. He’s a mannequin with my good looks, if you will,” laughed Hinksman.

“Just a lot creepier.”

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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