Sturgeon Point Villas residents banded together last Friday to help save three children who had to leap from a burning apartment.
Seventeen firefighters, four fire trucks, several ambulances and many RCMP officers swarmed Rivercrest Crescent at about 4:30 p.m. Aug. 7 in response to a fire at the Sturgeon Point Villas apartment complex (the serpentine building next to St. Albert Centre and the Sturgeon River).
Villas resident Carolyn Martindale said she called the fire department as soon as she heard the alarm go off, and smelled smoke when she opened an outside door for the police.
“It wasn’t until I came out to the riverside (side of the complex) that I saw smoke billowing out of the windows,” she said.
Villas resident Christina H., who knew the people in the burning apartment, said she and her kids spotted the smoke right away when they evacuated the building.
“The first thing I thought was, ‘the three kids,’” she said, referring to the mother and three toddlers she knew lived in that apartment.
Christina said she ran around banging on nearby doors and windows telling people to get out, and flung open the burning apartment’s patio door, getting a huge whiff of smoke in the process. She could hear children screaming from the apartment’s second-floor window.
Balrit Singh, who lived a few units away from the fire and was dressed for his shift at Domino’s Pizza in St. Albert, said he heard Christina shouting about the kids in the apartment.
“I heard kids screaming,” he said.
Singh said he tried to run in the open patio door to rescue them but was pulled back by another man, who pointed out that the apartment was full of thick, grey smoke. The two of them noticed a boy looking to jump from the second-floor window, and encouraged him to leap, arms ready to catch him.
“You could tell he could hardly understand us. He was almost passed out from the smoke,” Singh said.
“If the kids (hadn’t) come out, in another five minutes they would have been gone.”
After neighbour Toni-Marie King got them a small picnic table to stand on, Singh and the other man caught the boy and the young girl who followed him. They caught the third child when the mother dropped them out the window, but told her to stay put when she prepared to jump, as they could see fire crews pulling up to the building and weren’t sure they could safely catch her.
Firefighters saw a woman hanging half out the window amidst thick smoke upon arrival, said acting St. Albert fire chief Scott Wilde. Crews put up a ladder, pulled her to safety and soon put the fire out.
Wilde said a woman and two youths were taken to Edmonton hospitals for treatment for smoke inhalation. The fire was contained to one apartment, which suffered extensive smoke damage. Investigators had yet to determine the cause of the blaze.
King said the unit above the burning apartment also suffered extensive harm from the blaze, and that the mother and child who lived there were now staying in a hotel.
Wilde said Sturgeon Point Villas did not have a sprinkler system.