A woman in her 60s has died following a house fire Wednesday morning in Whiskey Creek, and the neighbours who tried in vain to pull her from the burning building are now urging others to check on their neighbours during cold snaps.
Police have since ruled out any criminality in the incident, and the case remains in the hands of the Coombs-Hilliers Fire Department.
Members of the Coombs-Hilliers Fire Department and Oceanside RCMP were called to the 3800-block of Marples Road in Whiskey Creek, just before 1 a.m. on Feb. 22.
Ron Schildroth, the department’s chief, said his crews had the fire under control within an hour, but a resident did not make it out alive.
“We were there for quite a while, watching for hotspots, making sure everything got cleaned up,” he said.
A news release from Oceanside RCMP said an investigation is underway.
“An update will be provided once the investigation has determined the cause of both the fire and death of the person located at the scene.”
‘Terrifying and surreal,’ neighbour says
Phillip Tiicham Muir recalled hearing strange noises before falling asleep Tuesday night, moments before he realized there was a fire next door.
“It sounded like some things falling and then some crackling which I initially thought might be heavy rain,” he wrote in an email interview.
“I got up and looked out the window, and was met by the sight of huge orange flames behind the trees that separate the end of our driveway from our neighbor’s house. I immediately dialed 911 at 12:54 a.m. and ran to tell my wife.”
Phillip says while he spoke with the 911 operator, his wife ran towards the flames worried their neighbour was still inside.
“Because I was on the phone I wasn’t fully aware of what she was doing or I would have stopped her,” he recounted.
He says his wife Sheena initially tried to open the door, but it was jammed. He watched as his wife and another neighbour used a piece of wood to break open the door of the burning home.
“She called out for [their neighbour], and thought she could hear her voice and her moving around,” he said.
“Sheena tried to go inside but the heat was too much. I had just finished talking to the 911 operator and was coming down our driveway. Sheena yelled for me to get hoses.”
By that point, it was too late.
Muir said he managed to get enough hoses together to reach the flames, but it lacked the pressure to subdue the blaze. All they could do now was stop it from spreading to their property, where their two children remained.
Moments later, authorities arrived on scene.
“The whole night was unbelievably terrifying and surreal. We are still processing what we experienced. We are deeply saddened for the loss of our neighbour, but also feel incredibly grateful that the fire was contained,” Phillip said.
Not the first fire
Muir says this isn’t the first time there’s been a fire on the property, and he recalls a previous time a number of years ago another structure burned down on the neighbours land.
“A few years ago before we moved here, the original house on the property also burned down, but no lives were lost in that fire,” he said.
The woman who was killed had lived there for quite a few years, he added.
“She was alone and she didn’t get out much,” said Sheena. “I just think she probably didn’t have a smoke detector in there.”
The couple is now urging others to check in on their neighbours who may be alone during this frigid winter weather to make sure they’re heating their homes safely.
With files from CHEK’s Skye Ryan