Resident displaced, kitten saved as ‘floor-to-ceiling’ smoke engulfs Salt Spring home: fire dept

Resident displaced, kitten saved as 'floor-to-ceiling' smoke engulfs Salt Spring home: fire dept
Photo: Salt Spring Fire/Facebook
From left to right: Firefighters Ivan Rossman, Peter Verheul and Jodi Banford saved a kitten from a house fire on Salt Spring Island, Friday, Aug. 25, 2023.

One person is displaced and a kitten is recovering after a firefighter heard its meows while responding to a house fire on Salt Spring Island.

Crews from Salt Spring Fire Rescue, a volunteer fire department, were called to the blaze around 7:45 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25, just as smoke was engulfing a duplex in the 200-block of Maliview Drive, says assistant fire chief Mitchell Sherrin.

“It was not occupied at the time. The (resident wasn’t) on scene, but they arrived while we were fighting the fire,” Sherrin told CHEK News.

He’s crediting one firefighter in particular who was there first and closed all the windows and doors.

“It’s a good thing for the public to realize as well. If you leave all the windows and doors open, oxygen helps it get bigger,” said Sherrin.

“His actions helped keep the fire small by the time an engine arrived. It was just the sofa and things next to the sofa that burned, and without his work, I think all the floor-to-ceiling smoke would have converted to flame.”

He says crews were able to stop the fire from spreading, but not before hearing a cat in distress.

“They did a quick search and found the kitten,” said Sherrin. “The occupant had three cats. We believe two of them escaped on their own, but there was a little kitten that probably couldn’t jump out the window.”

So crews acted fast to get the cat back to full health.

“We gave the kitten oxygen right away, for quite a while, and it seemed to make a full recovery,” he said. “I’m surprised at what a quick recovery the kitten made because it was floor-to-ceiling smoke when they made entry.”

The kitten is back with its owner, while “the other two were not found last night, but cats have a tendency to take off pretty quickly when there’s a fire,” added Sherrin.

Battery-sparked blaze

Seventeen firefighters along with RCMP, BC Ambulance and BC Hydro responded.

Sherrin says crews got there quickly and were able to confine the fire to the room of origin, which was an entryway where lithium batteries were discarded.

“The source of the ignition was that area,” he said, noting the batteries were deemed the official cause.

“They’re not good to leave in a pile together. They can have weird chemical reactions, and I believe that started the fire.”

The National Fire Protection Association has safety tips on its website, and Sherrin says this fire serves as a good reminder for people to properly dispose of batteries. 

“Do not put lithium batteries in the trash,” he said. “Instead, take them to a recycling location, and don’t keep discarded batteries in piles. That’s the official safety message.”

The damage, mostly smoke and water, is extensive.

“We only used 320 gallons, but it made a pretty big puddle in the suite underneath. It looks like it’d be a fairly extensive reno between the smoke and water damage,” said Sherrin.

“Fortunately it was a duplex, so the owner was able to move to the other side of the duplex that was vacant,” he added, lauding fire crews.

“Everybody did an excellent job. Of course, I’m still concerned for the homeowner. A big scare for her pets, and a huge undertaking to recover from an event like this.”

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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