‘We would have died’: Lake Cowichan family saved from burning home

Rob Webber

Father and son Mike and Travis Bell were in shock Sunday, looking on at what was their home just hours earlier, before a massive fire tore through it while they slept.

“We went to bed last night all comfortable and nice and this morning we were being jarred out of bed by a saviour, a guy that came in and rescued us out of this fire,” said Lake Cowichan resident Mike Bell. “We didn’t even know the fire was going.”

“Yeah, when he was waking me up my door was closed and he said, ‘This is the RCMP get out of the house,’ and the whole roof was already on fire,” said Mike’s son, Travis Bell, who also lived in the home.

“One more minute, like when we got out to the sidewalk, the widows blew and all the black smoke billowed out the windows, that quick,” said Mike.

“Totally, yeah, we would have died,” said Travis.

It happened at about 4:30 a.m. on Cowichan Avenue. The family escaped without even clothes on their backs when neighbours, who were awakened by the explosions, ran to their sides to help.

“Heard a siren and thought that’s strange. Then a large explosion that literally knocked us out of bed,” said neighbour Rob Webber.

“It was pretty scary. The whole thing was so scary,” said neighbour Jenny Bradford.

The Lake Cowichan Volunteer Fire Department raced to the scene and neighbours are crediting their quick actions for saving nearby homes.

“The fire department did so good. Our fire department is just so amazing,” said Bradford.

The home that was fully engulfed in flames was surrounded by tall trees and forests, in an extreme fire danger.

“Terrifying, terrifying. With all the wildfires going on,” said Webber. “And how fast that went. It was in a matter of seconds.”

What started the blaze wasn’t known on Sunday, but the family has an idea what spread it so fast. Mike Bell’s late father, who lived there before them, had stored gunpowder in the basement and Bell said they were still clearing it all out.

“He had tins of black powder for reloading rifle shells or shotgun shells,” said Travis.

“So a bomb did go off?” CHEK News asked Mike Bell.

“Yeah, a few of them,” he said.

Without any insurance to cover their loss, Lake Cowichan is rallying to help the family who’s lost everything. Starting a GoFundMe page and collections of clothes and housewares, to help them rebuild.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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