Lives were saved by the actions of a few who saw a fire burning through the roof of a building on Main Street and ran towards it according to Smithers Fire Chief Keith Stecko.
One of those saved was a young girl carried out by a contracted worker for LB Paving who was on a job site a block away.
“When they saw the heavy smoke that was coming from the building and decided to put their own safety to the side to go in and notify people that there was a problem and get them out of that building, largely due to that effort, those six people are actually alive right now because of that,” said Stecko.
Most of the residents of the apartments in the building were asleep when the fire started around 7:30 a.m. July 27.
“A person will succumb to smoke long before a fire,” explained Stecko.
“I’ve been doing this for close to 30 years. I can tell you that people can sleep right through alarms for various reasons, and unfortunately can succumb to smoke and fire.”
Joe Marshall and Adam Ford were in Smithers to do work for LB Paving that morning. Marshall has since returned to Toronto. Ford is from Prince George. While they wanted to emphasize how they were not alone in waking residents up, they told a harrowing story.
“We just looked up and there was some smoke. I looked at my boss and I asked him can I go check it out … We ran down there as fast we could and went in.
“The first thing I got was a little girl in my arms and carried her down … reenforced her along the way that she was going to be OK, then went back in to the back part where the fire was,” said Ford, who has level three first aid training.
“I’ve been in a lot of situations in my life where I needed help and thankfully people have come through. I just paid that forward and ensured people get that same privilege,” added Ford, who went to work right after being treated at hospital for smoke inhalation.
“We don’t consider it that big of a deal,” insisted Marshall.
Smithers Steelheads assistant captain Randall Groot got to put his skill to the test as he jumped in to help wake people in the apartments up.
After calling 911, Groot ran from his work into the building with Riley Meints. With nobody answering his bangs on the door at one of the apartments, Groot used a six-foot piece of metal bedframe as a battering ram and crashed open a door and make sure nobody was inside before moving on to the next room.
“One of the doors was locked, so I shoulder checked my way through,” recounted Groot, who also returned to work after giving a statement to police.
“I wasn’t the only one inside. The important thing is everyone got out safe,” said Groot.
Chief Stecko also thanked volunteer firefighter Bill Maskewhich — who rushed to alert residents in his street clothes before over 30 of his colleagues joined him — and Don Peterson for running towards the fire and saving lives.
Pictured: Joe Marshall (left) and Adam Ford (second from right) get thanks from LB Paving’s Dan Boissevain and Fire Chief Keith Stecko.